Proposed drastic regulatory reforms for Britain’s fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) are not sitting well with the country’s bookmakers.
The leaking of a UK Labour Party manifesto to the press on Wednesday night, which included the impactful FOBT changes, revealed that opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn plans to contest the June 8 general election on one of the most leftist platforms in years. And for bookies, regardless of their political persuasion, the manifesto made for very uncomfortable reading.
Bookies derive around 50 percent of their land-based profits from the controversial machines, around 35,000 of which are installed in bookmaking shops throughout Britain. But the media has dubbed them the “crack cocaine of the high street,” and claim they have contributed to an increase in problem gambling, crime, and social problems.
Politicians have wasted no time in jumping on the “sky is falling” bandwagon, as politicians everywhere so often like to do, of course.
The governing Conservative Party launched a regulatory review into the betting industry last year, with a particular focus on FOBTs. It was expected to publishing its findings this month, but Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election put them on the back burner.
Calls by some MPs (including a bipartisan group assembled to study FOBTs) to reduce maximum stakes from £100 ($129) per spin to £2 ($2.58) were met with vexation by the betting industry, which claimed such a move would result in shop closures and job losses.
It’s unlikely the Conservatives would approve such a drastic cut, because it appreciates the millions in taxes the betting industry contributes each year to the country’s coffers. But it is clear Labour would jump on board, no doubt with the cry that they are protecting the downtrodden masses who may be FOBTs’ greatest fans.
“These highly addictive machines in bookmakers across the country have become a problem for many families and communities,” the manifesto reads.
“They allow players to gamble away £100 every 20 seconds, encouraging people to chase their losses. Labour will also legislate to increase the delay in between spins on these games in order to reduce the addictive nature of the games.”
We wonder if that would work with cupcakes, too?
Bookies Fight Back
The leak prompted a harsh rebuke from the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), which called Labour’s plans “a bizarre and unjustified attack on betting shops.”
“Labour has fallen for the spin of our commercial rivals who have a vested interest in destroying Britain’s high street betting shops. There is no evidence to show cutting stakes on gaming machines will help tackle problem gambling,” said the industry body.
Such a move would “destroy over 20,000 jobs, close thousands of betting shops, cost millions of pounds in lost taxes … and end a popular activity for millions of people,” the ABB added.