Bookmaker measures fail to protect FOBT problem gamblers

Posted on August 24, 2015 by admin
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A new report by NatCen has revealed that measures rolled out by bookmakers to help protect players on the machines now dubbed the “crack cocaine of gambling” have failed to have any positive statistical impact.

The damming report commissioned by the Responsible Gambling Trust to look into measures launched earlier this year by the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), that were described as “potentially world leading”, has showed “no statistical evidence of any impact of the machine changes”.

In fact, from analysing data between March and December 2014, the situation appears to have deteriorated further, with only 1,400 out of 3.9 million sessions on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) using one of the limit-setting measures introduced by the bookies, by the end of the year.

On each of the four measures that the ABB’ Code of Conduct was designed to address, it was “anticipated that the code would result in players gambling in a more controlled way”, however the report shows there was no evidence of any impact on:

  • Length of time spent gambling
  • The amount of money gambled and lost
  • No impact on those players gambling for sessions over 30 minutes
  • No impact on the proportion of sessions using over £250 in cash for play

The report states: “[we] did not find any statistical evidence that the code had an impact on the four outcomes”.

Despite limitations on comparing player behaviour, the study looked at one in 10 players who hold a loyalty card with the biggest high street betting brands. NatCen noted that those holding loyalty cards “display relatively high levels of problem and at risk gambling”. These are the players that the bookmakers’ code is aimed at helping.

In April 2014, just as the ABB was introducing its Code, a leaked Ladbrokes report to the Guardian newspaper revealed that it knew: “that 92% of sessions on FOBTs would not receive any warnings under the new code” and the latest evaluation showed just one in 10 sessions receives any time or spend warning messages.

The findings come on top of warnings from the Gambling Commission about parts of the Code not evaluated by NatCen. Despite bookmakers claiming shop staff would be trained to spot the indicators of problem gambling, the Commission, just as the Code was launched, said bookmakers had “not yet provided a list of what such indicators might be”.

A Spokesperson for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, said: “The measures had no evidence base to support them when the bookmakers introduced them and now the early evidence is that they are failing. The Conservatives have been hoodwinked, yet again and the bookmakers found lacking, yet again. However, serious questions have to be asked as to why publication of this report has been delayed for nearly four months by an organisation chaired by a former Gala Coral boss.”

Graham Jones MP, who is leading calls for a clampdown on the £100 a spin casino machines, said: “This is a damning evaluation of measures the bookmakers devised and as predicted they aren’t working. Of course the bookmakers want to self-regulate, just like the tobacco industry did and it’s no coincidence tobacco industry tactics are increasingly being used by the betting industry to protect FOBTs.  When is this Conservative government going to put a stop to the social damage being caused in communities across the country?”