The Government has revised its decision on when to reduce the maximum stake on Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT). They will now reduce the top stake from £100 to £2 in April rather than October 2019. This news follows the resignation of sports minister, Tracey Crouch MP, then a cross-party rebellion over the delay.
The FOBT stake reduction was a key recommendation of the Gambling Review (published in May 2018). This measure aims to reduce harm amongst problem gamblers. However, the Gambling Review was clear that more help for gambling addicts is needed. This includes better access to gambling addiction treatment.
By bringing forward the cut in maximum FOBT stake by six months, the Government are now seeking to address more quickly the gambling product that is most associated with gambling harms. The Review found that “a high proportion of the number of problem gamblers who present for treatment identify machines in betting shops as their main form of gambling.”
The Review also found that the “high-staking nature of B2 [FOBT] machines that offer a maximum stake of up to £100 can lead to significant losses in a short space of time. In comparison to other gaming machines, B2 machines generate a greater proportion and volume of large-scale losses (for example, more than £500 in a session). The same industry data, published by the Gambling Commission, also found that losses are larger and sessions longer for those who bet at the maximum stake than those who play at a lower level.”
According to Tracey Crouch MP, this change to FOBT maximum stakes was a central priority in tackling problem gambling. “Dealing with the harms of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals by reducing the [maximum] stake from £100 to £2 was not the only important recommendation of the Gambling Review published in May, but it was one which many people cared enormously about,” Crouch said. “The harms from these addictive machines is well publicised and I felt humbled to have met many brave people who over the 3-years review process came forward and told me their stories or those of their loved ones who had sadly taken their own lives.”
Data on how much people bet, win and lose on FOBTs is available, so the effects of this change to gambling legislation will be easy to measure. The Gambling Review evidenced that when people staked £2 on Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals, their losses were considerably lower. Whether FOBT addicts will replace this form of high-stakes gambling with other risky betting activity is unpredictable. However, the Gambling Review says that if further changes to gambling legislation are needed, they should be considered as well.
More help for gambling addicts is needed
In Tracey Crouch’s letter, written after the Government confirmed the April 2019 stake change, she spoke about more help for gambling addicts. “This is right and sensible on FOBTs and will, without doubt, reduce harm from these machines on our high streets,” she said. “There is however much more to be done on reducing gambling-related harm online, dealing with advertising and supporting our treatment services, which the Review makes various recommendations on.”
The Gambling Review highlighted the growth of online gambling as a focus area, for example. It now “accounts for 44% of the commercial gambling sector, with 10% of adults across Great Britain now participating in online gambling.”
Access to specialist addiction treatment is also an essential assistance for gambling addicts. Therapeutic interventions, at the point of need, are vital to prevent serious and devastating consequences, which include serious mental ill health and financial hardship.
Help for gambling addicts is available. Please contact UKAT to discuss gambling addiction and accessing the treatment and support you need to recover.