DCMS confirms FOBT stake cut and demands enhanced player protection

Tracey Crouch

Updating the market this morning, the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has opened a ’12-week consultation period for proposals on ‘changes to gaming machines and social responsibility requirements across the UK gambling sector’.

The three Parliamentary Secretaries leading the government’s triennial industry review; Karen Bradley (Head of DCMS), Tracey Crouch (UK Sports Minister) and Lord Ashton of Hyde confirmed that Fixed-odds-betting-terminals (FOBTs) wagering levels would be reduced.

On FOBTs, the DCMS consultation will review minimising B2 gaming machine wagering within the £50 – £2 range, which had been previously reported by UK media. One hitherto unmentioned option was the reduction of B2 slots to £2 stake while non-slot B2 products (such as roulette) would only be reduced to £20.

DCMS has asked for the assistance of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) on machine customer protections with regards to better tracking and monitoring of play on FOBTs, securing ‘player interventions’ and reviewing gameplay dynamics.

The measures as laid out could have a huge bearing on the make up on the UK gambling industry given that FOBTS currently provide over half the profits for UK betting shops. A reduction to £2 from £100 has been estimated by government to cost the industry £577m a year and would no doubt see the closure of a slew of LBOs with the subsequent impact on the sectors that service it, notably horseracing which currently gets media rights fees and Levy payments from every shop.

Launching its consultation period, DCMS states that it aims to reduce large player losses, minimise customer risks and harms, and protect the wider communities in which FOBTs are located with regards to problem gambling.

The 12-week consultation will close on 23 January 2018, following which Government will consider its final judgement on Machine B2 gaming dynamics, for industry operators to implement.

DCMS and the UK government seek to expand industry social responsibility measures/practices across the sector and its operational value chain.

Moving forward, the department has highlighted key dynamics focusing on sector advertising standards, player messaging/communications, industry guidelines, strengthening of stakeholders’ social responsibility code and further funding of research, education and treatment with regards to problem gambling.

Minister for gambling Tracey Crouch detailed that DCMS, with the aid of UK advertising bodies and industry standards associations and charities, the department would seek to implement the five following measures upon the UK’s gambling social responsibility code:

  • The UK Gambling Commission will consult on changes to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice next year, with the aim of raising standards on player protection online and will set out expectations for the industry around customer interaction online.
  • GambleAware, Advertising Association, broadcasters and gambling industry groups will come together to draw up a major two-year responsible gambling advertising campaign. The government is clear that on gambling advertising more should be done by operators and others who benefit from gambling to minimise the risks to vulnerable people. The campaign will have a budget of £5 to £7 million per year and will include TV adverts, including around live sport, as well as radio, cinema, online and print. The campaign will be funded by gambling operators, including online-only betting firms, with airspace and digital media provided by broadcasters.
  • New advertising guidelines – will be drawn up by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) to help protect those at risk of problem gambling and children and young people by ensuring that the content of gambling adverts does not encourage impulsive or socially irresponsible gambling.
  • The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) will work to strengthen gambling firms’ code on responsible gambling advertising to require operators to ensure gambling content and channels cannot be accessed by under-18s via social media
  • All UK licensed gambling operators should step up on funding for research, education and treatment. If not, the government will consider other options, including introducing a mandatory levy on gambling operators.

All UK gambling stakeholders have been asked to participate in the industry review consultation which can be carried out online here.

Crouch added: “It is vital that we strike the right balance between socially responsible growth and protecting the most vulnerable, including children, from gambling-related harm.

“Given the strong evidence and public concerns about the risks of high stakes gaming machines on the high street, we are convinced of the need for action. That is why today we have set out a package of proposals to ensure all consumers and wider communities are protected.

“We have seen online gambling grow rapidly and we need to protect players in this space, while also making sure those experiencing harm relating to gambling receive the help they need.”

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