WHAT ARE FOBTs?Print this page
WHAT ARE FOBTs AND WHY ARE THEY IN HIGH STREET BETTING SHOPS?
Fixed Odds Betting Terminals are touch screen electronic gaming machines found in betting shops across the United Kingdom. On FOBTs you will find a variety of games, ranging from casino games such as Roulette, Poker and Black Jack, to electronic slot games and virtual racing.
FOBT’s maximum stakes could be reduced from £100 down to £2, in line with all other Category B machines, without primary legislation. The Department for Culture, Media & Sport has the power to do this RIGHT NOW and make these changes throughout every betting shop in the UK.
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FOBTs came to prominence in 2002 when roulette was introduced. At that time, Fixed Odds Betting Terminals were not regulated or categorised by Government, therefore bookmakers sneaked them into betting shops without any clear operating parameters agreed with regulatory bodies such as the then Gaming Board of Great Britain. The Gaming Board subsequently attempted to take one national bookmaker (William Hill) to court over introducing these gaming machines into betting shops. This court case was thwarted by bookmakers volunteering self-regulation on FOBTs. This self-regulation became known as the Code of Practice and once introduced bookmakers’ circumvented these rules by introducing even more casino and roulette games and facilitating debit card transactions from behind the counter in betting shops.
FOBTs are unique; they were categorised as B2 Gaming Machines in the 2005 Gambling Act, but they contain two categories of game content. Casino games are referred to as B2 and slot games are B3. Both types of games are capped at £500 maximum prize per spin. You can bet up to £100 per spin every 20 seconds on casino games (B2) and up to £2 per spin on slot games (B3). No other gaming machine allows such high speed, high stake play.
DO FOBTS ENCOURAGE PROBLEM GAMBLING?
In 2005 the then Minister of State at the Department of Culture, Media & Sport, Richard Caborn, said: “High stake slot machines, including FOBTs, remain on probation and we will continue to adopt a cautious approach. Government will not hesitate to act should there be sound evidence of harm.”
Between 2002 and 2012 the number of FOBTs has risen to over 34,000 and the profit generated for bookmakers has now reached over £1.4 billion. Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral make more than £900 per week profit from each roulette machine they operate and they are allowed to have up to four per betting shop. Approximately 50% of all profits made by land based bookmakers are now derived from FOBTs. The game driving this explosion in profits is Roulette, which accounts for approximately 90% of turnover and profit.
Casino style games (B2) are considered hard core gambling that was previously restricted to highly regulated casinos. By introducing them to betting shops, access to this type of hard core gambling has been made available on every high street across the country.
FOBTs have been a regular feature in the headlines over the last 10 years due to the highly addictive nature of electronic roulette games and has led to them being described as the “crack cocaine of gambling”. As Matt Zarb-Cousin outlines in this article for the Guardian based on his experience of them, they are highly addictive and can have destructive consequences.
In 2008 a Gambling Commission report on the Impact of high-stake, high-prize gaming machines on problem gambling:
“while EGMs (FOBTs) appear to appeal to many ordinary gamblers, they seem to be particularly attractive to those at risk of problem gambling and to those with a gambling problem. The available research has identified the sort of features that appeal to gamblers (example: fast games, multi-stake, high payout ratio, free games) and that are therefore associated with higher levels of both gambling and gambling-related harm” (Parke and Griffiths 2007).
WHAT ARE THE GOVERNMENT DOING ABOUT FOBTs?
In 2007 a scoping study for the Government advised that they should continue to monitor FOBTs in betting shops closely. No such monitoring has taken place and more worryingly, despite the increasing anecdotal evidence of the harm they cause, bookmakers have continued to expand their betting shop estates by focusing on the most deprived and vulnerable areas of the UK as highlighted by this analysis for the Guardian.
In November 2012 Panorama revealed the scale of crime, disorder and problem gambling being caused by Fixed Odds Betting Terminals on our high streets. Before this, Dispatches revealed the extent to which bookmakers are targeting the most deprived and vulnerable communities across the UK – all in pursuit of FOBT driven profits.
Join our campaign to rid our high streets of this dangerous product!
Watch this video for further information about the addictive nature of FOBTs
- Retired Oxford betting shop manager
I write with fifty years’ experience of the betting industry. Since the introduction of FOBTs about ten years ago the whole ethos and atmosphere of the betting shop has changed radically for the worse. READ MORE