The Campaign for Fairer Gambling is again challenging the assertions of the Gambling Commission. The Commission issued a Bulletin to its licensing authorities shortly after an advert was placed in a public service magazine about breaching of betting licenses, which attempted to clarify assertions by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling that the turnover generated by FOBTs changes the primary purpose of betting shops from betting to gaming, which would constitute a breach of license.
The Bulletin also claimed that FOBTs “rely on players repeatedly restaking their winnings” – the strongest indication yet that the Gambling Commission knows these machines are highly addictive, and a fact that the Campaign for Fairer Gambling has been trying to highlight for some time.
According to bookmakers’ annual reports, the turnover in betting shops is now split at around 80 per cent on machines and around 20 per cent on over-the-counter betting, dramatically changing the primary activity at the premises.
The Gambling Commission special report stated that “licensing authorities…. must be careful not to just assume there must be more profit or turnover from betting than machines to satisfy primary gambling activity”.
Derek Webb, founder of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, commented: “The argument that the Gambling Commission is using is totally convoluted. By saying that licensing authorities must be careful not to assume there is more turnover from gaming machines than their “primary activity” completely negates the fact that for many bookmakers FOBTs are already their primary activity! The figures are there in black and white – and the numbers do not lie.
“These machines are the root of many issues such as addiction, problem gambling and anti-social behaviour, all of which cause infinite problems for our high streets and local communities. Somebody – be that the licensing authorities or the Gambling Commission, needs to step up and police this industry before the side effects spiral out of hand.
“Thankfully in recent days Liberal Democrat ministers have publicly announced that the party are keen to plan a crackdown on FOBTs, and are proposing a new maximum bet of £2 – which we have been recommending for some time. Let’s hope this bold move from the Lib Dems sparks more ministers into action.”