FOBTs allow customers to wager as much as £100 every 20 seconds and have been deemed highly addictive by critics. In response, the BCC have implemented new restrictions on the machines, which each make an average weekly profit of around £900. As of today, all FOBTs will issue compulsory alerts as soon as a player has spent £250 or played continuously for 30 minutes on one machine. The new technology is being installed on more than 30,000 gaming units across the UK and, in addition to the mandatory alert, players will have the power to set their own personal time and wagering limits. If this limit is reached, both the customer and the staff will be notified and the machine will enforce a 30 second time-out.
The new code of conduct is designed to discourage irresponsible gaming and Dirk Vennix, chief executive of the Association of British Bookmakers, said “It forms part of the industry's ongoing, proactive efforts to be socially responsible, to tackle problem gambling and to ensure a duty of care towards every customer.” Vennix addressed “growing concerns” that some customers were “spending too much money or too much time on gaming machines,” and added that the industry continuously aims to protect vulnerable players.
Gambling Minister Helen Grant acknowledged the positive steps being made by the gambling industry but added “more could be done” to safeguard susceptible customers. Despite the recent amendment to the code of conduct, the ABB have faced widespread criticism for their slow and inadequate response.
Labour leader Ed Miliband recently identified FOBTs as “a magnet for crime and antisocial behaviour” and promised to let councils ban the machines from high streets. His concerns are supported by current Prime Minister, David Cameron.
Vennix countered criticism and defended the ABB’s actions saying, “We believe the measures strike the right balance between protecting customers without stopping the enjoyment of the eight million people who play on gaming machines without any problems.”
It’s clear that FOBTs are attracting nationwide attention and causing widespread controversy. Labelled as the “crack cocaine” of the gambling world, will we soon see a more severe crack-down on these betting shop favourites?