UK Leaked FOBT Document Shows Gaming Lobbyists Influence

November 7, 2017 by Paul Butcher

Following the proposed reforms being discussed by the UK’s Members of Parliament (MP) on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in betting shops, a new document has surfaced that reveals potential conflicts of interest are at work during the parliament debate.

Last week, reforms to the FOBT regulations was introduced to the MP, proposing a decrease on the maximum bet on FOBT’s from £100 to £2. The said review came in response to the concerns that the terminals have been the biggest fuel behind gambling addiction in the country.

A new document was leaked before the MP debate which showed that some of the questions drafted could be swaying the MPs to arrive at a decision favourable to betting lobbyists and bookmakers.

Instead of focusing on the negative impacts of FOBT on UK’s problem gamblers, a huge chunk of the questions highlighted the efforts of the betting shops to tackle the problem, the huge amount of revenue the industry is driving into the economy, and even presented suggestions to crack down on online gambling sites instead.

Sky News

Many of the versions of these leading questions made their way into the MP debate and have prompted thoughts that MPs could be swayed to make a decision benefitting bookmakers. Labour MP David Lammy, who has been lobbying against FOBTs for many years now has expressed his disappointment with the government for failing to focus on the huge harm caused by the FOBTs and instead considering the profits of big businesses.

In a statement, Lammy said

In my own constituency, the growth and proliferation of bookies on Tottenham High Road has been funded by the vast profits pulled in from FOBTs, with no regard shown for the misery and broken lives that they have left behind in my community

The fact that closing in on FOBTs would simply drive business elsewhere was also brought up during the debate. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport suggested that it is possible upon restricting the bookmakers’ terminals; players would only transfer to amusement arcades, bingo halls and pub chains.

Arcades, bingo halls, and pub chains have been very much active in lobbying against FOBTs because the terminals are huge competition for them. These gaming hubs which fall under the government’s B3 license pose as much danger as players also suffer heavy losses playing here.

According to a GambleAware report commissioned by the Responsible Gambling Trust, if the parliament successfully cuts the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2, punters can lose £230 an hour on B3 terminals, compared with just £9.72 an hour on the FOBTs. Their data also noted that the 1.9 million bets made on the FOBTs pale in comparison to the amusement arcade, bingo hall, and pub machines that receive more than 2.5 billion bets every year.