Bacta urges £2 maximum stake on FOBTs

6 April 2018

Bacta has issued a call for the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) to reconsider its recommendations for maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Last month, the UKGC presented a report to the government supporting plans to cut the top stake on slot games to £2 (€2.29/$2.80) and non-slot games to £30.

However, Bacta, the trade association for the UK’s amusement and gaming machine industry, has hit out at the plans, saying that only setting all stakes at £2 or below will address the issue of high-loss sessions on FOBTs.

Using UKGC session loss data from 2015-16, Bacta said that when average stakes were below £30, there were still 136,561 sessions in which a consumer lost over £500

This meant that more than 17% of all high-loss sessions – a total of 797,657 in 2015-16 – occurred when the average stake was set at £30 or below.

Bacta also found that when average stakes were between £10.01 and £20, there were 40,926 high-loss sessions; and for stakes between £5.01 and £10, there were a total of 5,613.

However, Bacta said that when stakes were set at £2 or below, high-loss sessions were “effectively eliminated”, with just 14 instances recorded with an average stake of between 51p and £2.

John White, chief executive of Bacta, said: “We were deeply concerned by the Gambling Commission’s advice that a stake level of up to £30 should be considered on FOBTs excluding slots.

“This analysis reinforces those worries, demonstrating the clear link between high-loss sessions on FOBTs and stake levels of between £5 and £30.

“It could not be clearer that only a £2 stake maximum can help protect vulnerable people from major losses on these machines, which are the source of so much needless and avoidable harm.

“A £2 stake is the only safe and sensible option to limit the damage caused by FOBTs, and we urge Government to acknowledge this and act.”

However, the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) has hit out at the new report, describing the figures quoted as “misleading” in a statement issued to iGaming Business.

The ABB made reference to the amount that players won while staking certain amounts of money, as opposed to what they lost.

For stakes below £30, there were 151,987 sessions where the customer won more than £500.

When the average stake was between £10.01 and £20, there were 47,008 gaming sessions where the customer won over £500, and for an average stake between £5.01 and £10, there were 7,418 sessions where the punter won over £500.

The ABB also warned that a £2 maximum stake is a “de-facto ban on FOBTs that will result in 21,000 people losing their jobs, while doing nothing to address problem gambling”.

An ABB spokesperson added: “The figures used by Bacta are highly misleading and fail to take into account the larger number of winning sessions that occurred at the staking levels they highlight. 

“It is also disappointing that Bacta chooses to question the integrity of the Gambling Commission’s advice to DCMS. 

“It is clear that Bacta’s primary focus is on securing a commercial advantage for amusement arcades over betting shops and that they will consistently and wilfully distort data to this end."

Related article: UKGC makes recommendations for FOBT review