Bookmakers putting their foot in it again
The dust had barely settled on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals having their maximum stake reduced from £100 to £2 when a couple of betting shop operators introduced new games that were so close in concept to those which had been criticised as the “crack cocaine of gambling” that it beggars belief they got sign-off.
It’s perfectly reasonable for high street bookmaker chains to try and replace the revenue and profit from the machines which have been neutered, but to do so with alternatives which, on the face of it, carry the same risk for fueling the addiction of problem gamblers is hugely disappointing.
It’s disappointing because it shows disregard for the concerns which have been raised about the dangers of machine-driven gaming. It is disappointing because the new games are nothing but slot-machine equivalents where the house is going to win. And it is disappointing that they were introduced seemingly without appreciation that they would antagonise those who campaigned against the original games and the money they swallowed up.
The new games do have differences which is why I said that “on the face of it” they carry dangers regarding problem gambling.
Stakes of up to £100 or £500 (depending on the game) can be wagered, and to play a betting slip has to be completed and handed over the counter. This, said the bookmakers, meant shop staff could intervene if the customer’s betting appeared to represent a problem.
However, such differences are insufficient in persuading the critics that the new games are less addictive and less dangerous than those they have replaced.
The Gambling Commission fired a shot over the bookmaker’s bows and, having already warned bookmakers not to try and get round the FOBT stake cut, they could undertake more action.
With gaming continuing to be under the microscope, operators cannot afford to put a foot wrong.
The new games introduced, and quickly withdrawn after the Gambling Commission intervened, was putting a foot wrong wearing size 12 boots.
The entire episode has an air of cynicism about it and once again the betting industry does itself no favours.