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FOBT Stakes Ruling Shot in the Arm for the High Street

22nd May 2018 – I’ve taken the past few days to let it sink in, the ruling by the  Department of Culture, Media & Sport ( DCMS ) announced on 17th May 2018, that FOBT’s ( Fixed Odds Betting Terminals ) are to be limited to a maximum of £2 a stake. This is a steep reduction from the current limit of £100 a stake / bet.

My considered view on this ruling, announced by DCMS on Thursday 17th May 2018, may well come as a surprise to you. Especially as after all, Online Casino Reviewer features all things casinos and gambling. But and this is the important fact here, we are supporters of Responsible Gambling and we wholeheartedly support the decision taken by the DCMS.

Whilst not a particular fan of the crusade some sections of the media such as The Guardian have decided to take against Online Gambling. We find ourselves on the same page as them, when it comes to the scourge of the High Street, which is what FOBT have become. Indeed, The Guardian’s article on this ruling by the DCMS which you can read here, is very hard to argue with.

The ruling on the maximum stake of £2, which is subject to the normal passage through parliament, most likely not become law until next year in 2019, is however, a very important one. Notwithstanding the fact it will no doubt affect the high street and cause many bookmakers to close, bringing with it a large number of job losses.

It is though an important step to take and fits in with the UK Gambling Commission and the work they have been doing over the past 12 months, ensuring their licensees  promote responsible gambling.

When announcing the ruling, Matt Hancock, the current UK Govt Secretary of State for DCMS stated:

These machines are a social blight and prey on some of the most vulnerable in society, and we are determined to put a stop to it and build a fairer society for all.

Now to be fair to Mr Hancock, I can’t find any part of that sentence quoted above which I am able to argue with. He is right, FOBT are a social blight and prey on the most vulnerable in society.

Indeed the video I have published at the top of the page, shows the proliferation of betting shops in a typical English town. Whereby there are two Coral Bookmakers and two William Hill Bookmakers, all within a few hundred yards of each other. There is also a Paddy Power Shop thrown in for good measure.

Why have they done this? Quite simple, as part of their license, a Betting Shop is only allowed a maximum of 4 FOBT’s in the premises. As they have proven to be so profitable, it warrants the opening of another branch just down the road. With basically the revenue generated by the FOBT’s with their current maximum £100 a bet stake, financing the second shop and making it viable to remain open.

Now this is where the shop closures and job losses come into play. Once the maximum stake of £2 is made law, the second and in some cases third such branch of a bookmaker’s estate will close.

Also in the video above, I show you the propensity of betting shops is very different in an affluent town / city. I visit the City of Bath just down the road from where I live, some thirteen miles from the town of Trowbridge, which the first part of the video covers.

You will see that being an affluent City, which attracts 1 million tourists a year does not have anywhere near the number of Betting Shops and Bookmakers. Why is this? Quite simple, the demographic is completely different in Bath than it is to your typical English town.

As far as I am concerned,I am in agreement  that FOBT’s are a cancer of the High Street. They prey on the vulnerable and their locations are no mistake. Often, they are placed near to pawn shops and the such like.

Branch Closures and Job Losses

Branch closures and job losses are inevitable. However, the bookmakers will survive. But it is also my considered view that they should do everything possible to help their employees. Whether that is by providing jobs in other unaffected branches, or by providing career training to help them find a new form of employment.

The introduction of FOBT’s was grabbed by both hands by the high street bookmakers when they were allowed to include them in their shop estate, thanks to the 2005 Gambling Act. I remember the enthusiasm of the directors at Ladbrokes who I worked for in Gibraltar at the time, when they were planning to introduce them.

This to them, is another setback, similar to back in 2001 which saw the Betting Duty scrapped, in return for those operating off shore call centres to return them back to the UK.

In short, they will get over it, they will find another cash cow to milk. The only ones that will hurt from this, are those hard working employees who find themselves out of a job.

But for the British High Street and those vulnerable individuals who have had their lives blighted by FOBT’s, there is come 2019, at least light at the end of the tunnel.

 

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