Sometimes referred to as the “crack cocaine of gambling”, Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (or B2 machines), are touch screen roulette machines on which gamblers can play casino games with a stake of up to £100 every 20 seconds.
Since their introduction, FOBTs have become a very profitable part of the business model for bookmakers and are estimated to take up as much as 50 per cent of high street bookmakers profits.
Following the Gambling Act 2005, which allows each betting shop to have no more than four FOBT machines per premises, there has been a substantial increase in the number of machines. Due to their addictive and lucrative nature, this has contributed to the opening of multiple betting shops in close proximity to one another. There are now over 33,000 FOBTs located in high street betting shops across the UK.
Changes to FOBT maximum betting limits
The government launched a 12-week consultation on 31st October 2017 to gather evidence on what level maximum stakes for FOBTs should be. This has followed years of campaigning from external organisations and Local Authorities, as well as Parliamentary critics – most notably the APPG on FOBTs - to lower the threshold from £100 to £2.
The consultation ended in January 2018 and the government has since announced that they will be enforcing the £2 limit. No timetable has yet been set for implementation and a 2 year “grace” period to allow the gambling industry time to adjust to the change in legislation means that the £100 maximum stake will remain in place until at least 2020. Figures from the Campaign for Fairer Gambling suggest that there are twice as many FOBTs in the country’s 55 most deprived areas as there are in the 115 richest districts, and they record more than double the losses19.This same pattern is visible in London.
Harm caused by problem gambling may be exacerbated in deprived areas and the proliferation of betting shops risks creating a causal link between clustering and poverty. A study by Geofutures found that, while there are no statistically significant differences in problem gambling prevalence, problem gambling and moderate risk prevalence rates were higher among those who lived in areas of higher clustering.