The Campaign for Fairer Gambling has responded to misleading claims from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) following an article published in the Daily Mail, which claimed the Government were “clamping down on FOBTs”.
The article referred to the roulette machines in betting shops known as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), which are being reviewed in the Triennial Review of Stakes and Prizes by the DCMS. The Campaign for Fairer Gambling and its Stop the FOBTs Campaign has been presenting the case for a stake reduction from a £100 maximum to £2 per spin for some time, which would bring them into line with all other UK gaming machines.
At no point has the Campaign argued for a prize reduction from the current £500 maximum, nor has it taken issue with the existing B3 games which are already capped at £2 per spin, as these games do not have a significant impact on levels of problem gambling. Without a reduction in stake on the high speed, high stake B2 casino content, there will not be any clampdown on FOBTs.
Derek Webb, founder of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, said: “Once the DCMS has published its final response then the official position will be clear, but until then this piece of news sounds like political spin from DCMS with the aim of giving the impression that action is being taken.
“The ‘harm-minimization’ measures being proposed by the bookmaking sector in defence of FOBTs do not provide adequate levels of player protection. The ultimate control in ensuring player protection on electronic gaming machines is size of stake and speed of play, which is why all other machines and game content are capped at £2 per spin rather than the £100 on FOBTs. Harm minimization is like having an ambulance waiting because you know there is going to be an accident. It does not prevent problem gambling and the bookmakers know this because they tested voluntary stake and time restrictions in 2006. It was a complete failure and will be again.”
Bookmaker duplicity on this issue is further highlighted by the creation of new roulette content by adapting traditional slot games into high stake, high risk casino games. They are trying to draw low stake, low risk players onto more addictive high speed, high stake games.
As it stands, the Code of Conduct being drawn up by the bookmakers is nothing more than a re-run of their 2003 Code of Practice, which was supposed to provide adequate measures for player protection enforced by the bookmakers and their suppliers. The reality is that it was a whitewash, as the bookmakers detoured around those same measures to further proliferate addictive electronic casino game content.
Adrian Parkinson, a former regional machines manager at the Tote responsible for rolling out FOBTs and now a consultant for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, said: “These are the type of proposals that the DCMS and the bookmakers want to encourage, to make it look like something is being done, when in reality it is just business as usual. As DCMS officials have confirmed, the bookmakers have been lobbying hard and despite their submission to the Triennial Review asking for no increase in stakes and prizes on FOBTs, they have privately being lobbying for an increase with the added demand for more machines.”