Gambling Commission ‘bottles’ FOBT stake cut

High-stakes betting machines known as Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) should have the maximum bet set “at or below £30”, the Gambling Commission has recommended.

The Government’s advisory body on gambling has recommended the cut from the current maximum of £100.

Currently punters can lose up to £18,000 an hour on the machines dubbed the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’, as they can bet up to £100 every 20 seconds.

Cuts

In October the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published a review of FOBTs which suggested four alternatives for cuting the maximum stake – £2, £20, £30 or £50.

The new £30 maximum would apply to non-slot games such as roulette. Slot games would be cut to £2.

Shares in major betting chains William Hill and Ladbrokes Coral rose in light of the Commission’s report.

Ministers will now need to weigh up the recommendations.

‘Bottled it’

Gambling Commission Executive Director Tim Miller appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to explain the report’s proposals, where he was grilled by presenter Justin Webb.

Miller said the recommendations give Ministers the freedom to go for a limit less than £30, but Webb questioned why the Commission had not simply opted for a £2 maximum.

He noted that if the Government were to go with the watchdog’s new proposal, gamblers could still lose up to £5,400 an hour.

He said: “You could have said a maximum of £2, couldn’t you? And you haven’t, you’ve bottled out of it.”

‘National concern’

The Chair of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, Simon Blackburn, criticised the report.

He encouraged the Government to go further than the report’s recommendations and “implement the maximum possible reduction to £2, alongside other protection measures”.

He also highlighted the “harm and anti-social behaviour” that FOBTs cause, saying that it has become a “national concern”.

He said: “It’s essential the Government commits to taking the strongest possible measures to address these concerns.”

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