UK gamblers to set own limits on FOBTs under new code

28 February 2014

Gamblers in the UK will be able to set limits on the amount of time and money they spend on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) under a new code of conduct developed by the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB).

According to the Guardian newspaper, the new code will enable customers to set their own limits in the time and money they spend on a machine, while staff will be alerted when limits have been reached.

Mandatory alerts will appear on the machines when a customer has spent £250 on a machine or played for more 30 minutes. Each alert will also introduce a 30-second break in play.

In addition, betting shop staff will also be trained to identify problem gamblers and offer advice and support.

The alerting technology will be installed on 33,000 machines across England and Wales, but testing and installation requirements will mean the entire introduction process will take up to six months to complete.

Dirk Vennix, chief executive of the ABB, said the code had the full support of the gambling industry and would help to give players more “control” and “encourage responsible gambling”.

“We recognise growing concerns that some customers are spending too much money or too much time on gaming machines,” Vennix said.

“We believe the measures strike the right balance between protecting customers without stopping the enjoyment of the eight million people who play on gaming machines without any problems.”

As reported by iGaming business in January 2014, the UK government rejected a motion to for local councils to be given more power to limit the number of FOBTs in their individual constituencies.

Helen Grant, the UK’s Culture Minister, said that although the code was a “positive step in the right direction”, the government thinks “more could be done” to help protect punters.

“Problem gambling is a serious issue and we are determined to help tackle it,” Grant said. “We want there to be a competitive gambling sector but not at the expense of public protection, and our ongoing review is focused on that.”

The Responsible Gambling Trust (RGT) has been asked by the ABB to commission an independent and systematic review of the new code.

Marc Etches, chief executive of the RGT, added: “The evaluation will assess the code's short-term and long-term impacts on consumer behaviour and will form an important part of the RGT's recently announced programme of research into gaming machines located in licensed betting offices.”

Related article: UK Government rejects calls for tighter controls on FOBTs