Thought leadership

The maximum stake for fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT) should be cut to £30 or less, the UK’s Gambling Commission has recommended.

Currently people can bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on electronic casino games, such as roulette and blackjack. It comes after a consultation on FOBTs for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The commission says the maximum stake on “slots games”, like traditional fruit machine games, should be £2. The advice has been given to support the government with its review of gambling machines, with a decision expected in coming weeks.

FOTBs have come under criticism for encouraging high-stakes gambling and exposing people to the risk of gambling harm. The machines have been called the “crack cocaine” of gambling by campaigners who say they let players lose money too quickly, leading to addiction and social problems.

And Tim Miller, executive director of the Gambling Commission, told the BBC that its remit when considering stake recommendations had been “to protect vulnerable people from harm”.

Fixed-odds terminals were introduced in casinos and betting shops in 1999, and offer computerised games at the touch of a button.

The Gambling Commission’s report said the £30 limit for casino-type games had been recommended, because a higher limit means players could potentially “lose large amounts of money in a short space of time”.

The government now has to decide whether to accept the commission’s advice on the stake limit, or decide to impose a lower figure.

Is it all about limiting stake sizes?

The government began to look at FOBT machines in October 2016, when it made a “call for evidence” on the number and location of terminals and the measures in place to protect players.

Now Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur has said: “We’ve put consumers at the heart of our advice – advice which is based on the best available evidence and is focused on reducing the risk of gambling-related harm.

“In our judgment, a stake cut for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals alone doesn’t go far enough to protect vulnerable people.

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