UK Bookies Introduce ‘Over-the-Counter’ Roulette-Style Games to Combat Reforms to FOBTs

Posted on: April 2, 2019, 09:24h. 

Last updated on: April 2, 2019, 09:24h.

On the day the UK betting industry was finally forced to swallow a drastic cap on the maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), several new games appeared in bookmakers shops up and down the country — which one politician branded “FOBTs by the back door.”

UK media has reacted with predictable outrage over new games from bookmakers, like Betfred’s “Virtual Cycling,” but these games involve spins every three minutes — rather than every 20 seconds — and appear to be compliant with the new rules regarding FOBTs. (Image: Association of British Bookmakers)

Last week the UK Gaming Commission wrote to operators warning them not to try to bypass the reforms to FOBTs — which came into force on Monday — with alternative games that could be played for high-stakes.

On Tuesday, the media accused them of doing just that. New products appeared overnight in bookmakers’ shops that offer roulette-style games — not through video terminals but via betting slips and TV screens.

Bookies have warned that cutting maximum stakes on FOBTs from £100 ($130) to £2 ($2.60) will decimate the retail betting industry and said it will have to find new strategies to keep it going.

Gambling at a Slower Pace 

Betfred has launched a game called Virtual Cycling, which allows bettors to select numbers on a betting slip with a graphic laid out similar to the design of a roulette table. The numbers correspond to sections of an animated cycling track on a TV screen, with virtual cyclists taking the place of the roulette ball.

The Guardian points out that the maximum stakes on this game are £500 ($652) — “five times what was possible on FOBT games that are now banned” — although FOBTs allowed gamblers to potentially lose £100 every 20 seconds. This game is much slower.

Paddy Power’s version is “Pick ‘n’ 36” — which also involves betting slips and a roulette-style game. The maximum stake is £100 and the wheel spins every three minutes.

We are aware of these products and we are investigating,” said a spokesperson for the UK Gambling Commission. “We have been extremely clear about our expectations in relation to how operators should implement the stake reduction … Where we see businesses failing to act responsibly in response to the stake reduction we will not hesitate to step in.’’

Bookmakers: New Games Compliant

But spokespeople for betting operators said that the “over-the-counter” games were fully compliant with the new rules, which relate solely to betting via gambling terminals. The games involve filling in a betting slip, as you would do if you were betting on a horse or on the outcome of a sporting event.

“Bets for all these products need to be filled out on a betting slip and handed over at the counter, where our staff can interact with the customers as they do so,” a representative for Betfred told The Guardian. “These are not machine games but over-the-counter bets.”

William Hill, which is trialling a similar game called “Wonderball,” said the company was committed to player protection and that all new products “will only be launched after full engagement with the regulator.”