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FOBT stake cut comes into force but bookmakers are accused of bypassing rules Published Date: 02/04/2019

On Monday (01/04/19), the reduction of the maximum stakes on fixed odd betting terminals (FOBT) came into effect.

The reduction in maximum stakes saw stakes reduced from £100 to £2. In the same week, the Gambling Commission warned operators to ensure they comply with the new rules.

Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur has?repeated to bookmakers the regulator's expectations about how the changes should be managed.?

He said: "We have been closely monitoring operators' plans to manage the implementation of the stake cut and we will continue to watch very carefully to ensure that any changes and developments to these products are done with a focus on customer safety."

However, some bookmakers have been accused of bypassing FOBT rules with new roulette-style games. The Guardian reported that some bookmakers launched high-stakes roulette-style games on the same day restrictions on the machines came into force.

According to the Guardian, Betfred began offering a roulette-style game on Monday called Virtual Cycling, that allows gamblers to place bets on a piece of paper obtained over the counter, showing a graphic similar to a roulette table. The game features a maximum stake of £500.

Similarly, Paddy Power launched a betting game called Pick ‘n’ 36 and features a maximum stake of £100. Paddy Power’s game lets players bet on numbers between 1 and 36, as well as on other eventualities similar to roulette. A TV screen displays “hot” and “cold” numbers, giving the impression that the numbers selected are not random.

Labour’s shadow culture minister, Tom Watson, said: “These new games seem like FOBTs by the back door and look like a pretty disgraceful example of bad faith by the bookmakers involved. They appear to be trying to cheat the system.

“The gambling industry fought FOBTs reform tooth and nail, never accepting the terrible social harm they caused. They clearly haven’t learned any lessons – if they won’t reform themselves a Labour government is determined to do it for them.”

Tracey Crouch MP, who resigned as sports minister in anger at a proposed delay to FOBT curbs, said: “Any attempts to circumnavigate measures that reduce harm would be morally irresponsible. If bookmakers had taken their responsibilities for player protection more seriously there wouldn’t have been a need for government or regulator intervention.”

Helen Venn, executive director at the Gambling Commission, said: “We are aware of these products and we are investigating. We have been extremely clear about our expectations in relation to how operators should implement the stake reduction. This is why we have been monitoring developments closely and last week we wrote to operators to remind them of their responsibilities to ensure consumers are protected. Where we see businesses failing to act responsibly in response to the stake reduction we will not hesitate to step in.’’

Source: BBC & The Guardian