UK consumers lose over £11bn on FOBTs since 2008
Punters in the UK have lost more than £11 billion (€13.1 billion/$14.2 billion) on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) since 2008, according to new research by Landman Economics.
The latest study found that approximately £50 billion has been wagered on the machines since 2008, which means that with the £11 billion deficit, the average UK punter has lost around £8,000.
Landman Economics estimated that around 40% of the losses are from 300,000 problem FOBT players in the UK, each of which lost almost £15,000, adding that the machines look to have cost 186,000 jobs in the nine-year period.
According to the Times newspaper, Howard Reed of Landman Economics said this jobs deficit has cost the exchequer £1.3 billion in lost revenue, even after accounting for the £400 million tax revenue generated by FOBTs each year.
“Money lost on FOBTs supports relatively little employment compared with spending elsewhere in the economy,” Reed said.
“A billion pounds of ‘average’ consumer spending supports about 21,000 jobs across the UK, whereas £1 billion lost on FOBTs supports only 4,500 jobs in the gambling sector.
“So for every £1 billion lost on FOBTs, over 16,000 jobs in the UK are destroyed.”
Consumers are currently able to bet up to £100 per spin on FOBTs, but critics of the machines have called on the government to lower this to £2.
The government had been due to carry out an in-depth review of FOBTs, but the plans were shelved when the General Election was called last month.
The Labour party has said that should it emerge victorious from next month’s election, it would cap the maximum stake at £2, and although the Conservatives, led by current Prime Minister Theresa May, are yet to make a similar pledge, party think tank Respublica said it is likely they will follow suit.
Phillip Blond, director of Respublica, told the Times: “Self-regulation has failed; we are making the conservative case for a much lower limit to secure family life and promote prosperity.
“The experiment with unthinking liberalism when it comes to high-stakes high-street gambling has failed.”
Earlier this year, the All-Party Parliamentary Group’s (APPG) published a report that recommended the maximum stake be cut to £2 per spin, while also saying that the number of FOBTs allowed in betting shops should be cut from four.
However, the report was met with a hostile response from the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), branding it “misleading” and “deeply flawed”.
The ABB filed an official complaint with Kathryn Hudson, the UK’s Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, over the report, which was funded by a number of anti-FOBT groups.
Earlier this month, Hudson announced that after conducting a review of the report, she concluded that it breached various parliamentary standards.
Hudson said these breaches included a failure to record who attended APPG meetings and take proper minutes, as well as a lack of transparency about free advice the group received from a public affairs firm employed by gambling operators that do not run FOBTs.
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who chairs the group, was forced to make an apology over the matter and ordered to rectify changes.