Today, we take yet another leap down the rabbit hole of politics, this time regarding Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (or FOBTs for short). Recently, Kathryn Hudson, the UK's Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, has blasted the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for filing a report that fails to tick all the boxes.
The report was made in regards to the betting limitations of FOBTs and, according to Hudson, has some serious flaws in it that makes it almost worthless. Fixed odds terminals have always been a controversial subject for many MPs and this is a new chapter in long line of dramas involved with them.
What Are FOBTs?
For many online players, especially if your introduction to gambling was through the internet, you may never have heard of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. This is because they are machines largely confined to betting shops on your local high street, but the principle is almost the same as online betting.
You use a terminal in the betting shop that allows players to bet on the outcome of various games, the most popular one being roulette but players can use them to play bingo, horse-racing and slot machines. The machines have been met with a lot of criticism as they allegedly make players more likely to become addicted to gambling.
This report filed by the APPG seems to be an attempt to improve on this, claiming that the maximum stake of £100 should be cut on all machines to a measly £2. This drastic cut was the most radical proposal yet made by the organisation and, for many reasons, it was met poorly by the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB).
The Flaws In The Report
The ABB claimed that the APPG's report on fixed odds terminals was “deeply flawed” and “misleading”. In fact, they went as far as to label it criminal. While on the surface this may seem like a dramatic statement, when we look closer at the facts we can see it's no exaggeration. After complaining to Hudson, the Commissioner discovered that the APPG breached several standards of procedure when filing the report.
She claimed that the report was lacking in clarity, had no record of who attended to official APPG meetings on the matter, and didn't even have any minutes of said meetings attached. These details may seem trivial and overly bureaucratic to some but necessary to wheedle out the unbiased MPs from the ones who are prejudiced against gambling.
Hudson also criticized the APPG's proposal to make fixed odds terminals have a maximum bet of £2. Not only would this dramatically affect betting shops all over the country but it would cost thousands of jobs and have a massively negative impact on the industry as a whole. And while the legislation was most likely proposed to tackle gambling addiction, how will it help people already addicted who won't just keep on betting £2?
MP Carolyn Harris, who heads the APPG, was forced to apologize for the misleading report and correct all the necessary errors. The head of the ABB, Malcolm George, who represents many bookermakers throughout the UK, was delighted by Hudson's review, saying that the report had “flimsy research” and that he was glad that these “serial offenders” had been exposed.
“MPs have been rightly criticised for their woeful lack of transparency,” he said. “This small and unrepresentative group of anti-FOBT MPs failed to make it clear they were funded by vested interests included commercial rivals of High Street bookmakers.”
How This Affects Online Players
It may not be apparent but if this piece of legislation were to go through, then online players will be affected too — not directly, but by inference. Many popular online casinos (such as Paddy Power, William Hill and Betfred) are a large chain of betting shops that operate on every high street in the country. A blow like this would drastically affect their business which would mean they would have to pour all their investment into their online ventures or become liquidated.
You may be thinking that more investment in online ventures would be a good thing. But you would be wrong. With a serious blow to their profits, how can popular bookmakers hope to put money into developing new games or offering grand prizes? Little by little, they would all lose their players online too and eventually go out of business. And that is definitely not a good thing. We thank whatever God there may be that the anti-FOBT groups are a bunch of incompetent fools.