UK Bookies Warned Off FOBT Workarounds by Gambling Commission

Roullette Wheel Ball Position 0It was the divisive issue that looked likely to cost UK bookmakers millions of pounds in revenue.

And with the reduction in maximum stake on the FOBT machines, from £100 to £2, has already started to bite.

So a couple of UK based bookies have tried to come up with a cheeky workaround; although these have been met with short shrift by the UK Gambling Commission.

Both Paddy Power and Betfred have created their own high stakes betting games with a roulette-style feel to them, and these were launched on Monday.

All bets were to be taken over the counter, with the games played out on TV screens rather than on FOBT machines; hence evading the new rules on a technicality.

But the games were said to undermine the changing landscape regarding fixed-odds betting, and the Gambling Commission were quick to act and warn against any attempts to circumnavigate the new rules.

Taking a Chance in a Post FOBT World

Red Dice

The £2 stake cap of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals was originally devised last year by the Gambling Commission in an attempt to curb some alarming stats regarding the numbers of problem gamblers on the high street.

But the FOBTs have proven to be a key revenue stream for the bookies, and many had claimed that the stake reduction would lead to shop closures and redundancies due to profit loss.

Betfred have created a virtual cycling style game in their shops, where two cyclists compete on a velodrome style track. When the cyclist catches the one in front, the number displayed on their jersey – with options for players ranging from 1-36 – is the winner.

Clearly, this is seen as a way to add roulette style gaming to virtual sports, which are allowed, with punters also able to wager on odd or even numbers, colours, rows and so on. The maximum stake limit is £500.

Paddy Power’s game, called ‘Pick ‘n’ 36’, was a much closer appropriation of roulette with betting on numbers between 1-36, and featured a maximum stake of £100.

Both operators have been ordered to take down the new games, with the Gambling Commission warning them and others that attempts to swerve FOBT laws will not be tolerated.

What They Said

Red Traffic Light

The UKGC’s executive director of enforcement, Richard Watson, said in a statement:

“We have been absolutely clear with operators about our expectations to act responsibly following the stake cut implementation this week.

“We have told operators to take down new products which undermine the changes, and we will investigate any other products that are not within the spirit and intention of the new rules.”

Watson also mentioned that a third bookmaker, believed to be William Hill with their new game ‘Wonderball’, had been warned against releasing it into their retail shops this week.

In defence, a Paddy Power spokesman said:

“This game was introduced as part of a short trial in a selection of shops. The trial was ceased within 24 hours of commencement, and this product will not be launched across our estate.”

And Betfred confirmed:

“We removed the virtual cycling game and all associated marketing at 10.30am this morning [Tuesday] after discussions with the Gambling Commission.”