FOBTs: have we all gone horse racing mad?


If you’ve read the tabloids recently, you could be forgiven for thinking that our industry’s trade association BACTA has done the unthinkable by calling for high-stakes gaming machines, known as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, to be allowed in all adult gaming venues.

FOBTs allow sizeable bets of around £50 per spin on roulette, for example (and bets of up to £100 are allowed, but only after informing a member of staff).

They are already present in almost all bookmakers’ shops nationwide, and have proved to be a very lucrative income stream for the bookies, with new shops reportedly opening up just to house extra FOBTs.

But although the government are happy to allow them in bookies, these gaming machines are not permitted in other adult-only gaming environments, such as adult gaming centres and bingo halls.

In recent weeks, BACTA has pointed out this discrepancy, calling for parity for their members – and unfortunately the tabloids have misreported the story, implying that BACTA would like to see FOBTs rolled out across the board.

The reality is that the gaming industry isn’t deaf to the furore surrounding FOBTs. They understand that asking for FOBTs in all adult gaming venues would be an own goal of epic proportions. BACTA merely asks that the government address the massive bias that favours the book makers in allowing FOBTs in bookies only.

If you doubt the advantage that this gives to book-makers, ask yourself this question, over the past five years has the number of AGCs grown or fallen, then ask yourself if the number of betting shops has grown or fallen. When you have the answer you’d be sure to think that we’ve all gone horse racing mad…. Have we?

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