It has been evident for some years that FOBT or B2 machine activity is exceeding over-the-counter activity in betting shops. Reviewing Ladbrokes recent accounts, it is apparent that over 80% of the turnover it generated is now from FOBTs, compared to under 20% from traditional betting.
Whilst it is accepted that the win figures from FOTB and over-the-counter betting activities are closer to 50% each, the fact that the machines generate four times as much turnover than the betting is indicative of problems they cause. These figures surely show beyond reasonable doubt the addictive and potentially harmful nature of these machines.
Betting shops are clustering in poorer areas of the country just to increase the amount of FOBTs they have in a targeted community. Rather than preventing problem gambling, as is required by the terms of their betting shop licenses, the bookmakers are in fact exacerbating it and profiting of the people they are supposed to be protecting.
As FOBT revenue contribution (and subsequent proliferation) has grown exponentially in the last ten years, it is sure to substantially exceed betting win in the near future. This will mean more damage to problem gamblers and their communities, and due to the speed of play and the nature of content, more chance that young people will be affected.
As the primary activity of betting shops is now gaming machines, rather than betting, and as this is in contradiction of the primary activity requirement of the betting license they operate under. We need to ask the following questions:
- What steps does the UK Gambling Commission intend to take to address this abuse?
- When will those steps be taken?