UK bookmakers are continuing the fight to maintain the maximum bet limit on their fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) as a leaked manifesto reveals uncertainty.
A draft of Labour’s 2017 general election manifesto was leaked earlier this week and among the policy changes is the plan to reduce the maximum bet limits on FOBTs from £100 to just £2.
This follows an All-Party Parliamentary Group report which called for the same measure, as well as a reduction in the number of machines at betting shops. However, it was revealed the report was funded by companies which would benefit from fewer FOBTs.
But it appears the Labour party has hung on to the measures as per the leaked manifesto.
The opposition also revealed it wants to “legislate to increase the delay in between spins on these games in order to reduce the addictive nature of the games.” Currently, FOBTs allow players to make a new wager three times a minute.
The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) were quick to condemn the Parliamentary Group report and the leak is no different.
The ABB released a statement saying the Labour’s draft manifesto was “a bizarre and unjustified attack on betting shops from the Labour Party whose members are among the millions who enjoy their leisure time at their local bookies.”
The ABB added they believed Labour were basing the measures on the report.
“Labour has fallen for the spin of our commercial rivals who have a vested interest in destroying Britain’s High Street betting shops,” the ABB said.
“There is no evidence to show cutting stakes on gaming machines will help tackle problem gambling.”
They also referred to independent studies which revealed people lose more money on arcade games than they do on other gambling machines with the current stakes.
The UK’s leading problem gambling charity, GambleAware, revealed last December reducing stakes was “not the most effective option for minimising gambling-related harm” after the report was released.
Bookmakers in the UK rely on the income from their betting shop FOBTs – it has been revealed around 54 percent of retail revenue is reportedly from these machines.
“This flawed policy would destroy over 20,000 jobs, close thousands of betting shops, cost millions of pounds in lost taxes for the Government and end a popular activity for millions of people – all without helping a single problem gambler,” the ABB added.
“Cutting stake levels on machines in betting shops would leave venues like arcades and casinos free to operate their 140,000 gaming machines completely unrestricted, with much quicker spin speeds and higher staking levels.”
The UK’s parliamentary watchdog released their findings after the ABB called for an inquiry into the Parliamentary Group’s report. The report breached four violations of transparency, which gave bookies some reprieve.
Still, the stance against FOBTs isn’t new as former Labour party leader, Ed Miliband, campaigned against the controversial machines before the 2014 election.
The government has since hinted at some reforms for the machines due to public pressure, but as they generate a huge chunk of tax revenue the Tories are somewhat more conscious of taking action.
While the Tories were ready to release their findings of their triennial review on the gambling industry, Prime Minister Theresa May issued a snap election last month.
As UK election rules prohibit the government from releasing major policy announcements amid a campaign, the findings will unlikely be released until autumn.