The 1st of April is here, and with it the new cuts on the popular FOBT’s. We’ve been continuously following and posting news on the topic since it was first brought to light, and the day has finally come. For some, it’s a huge victory. The £100 maximum stake meant players could gamble a small fortune in an incredibly short time, leading to devastating effects not just on the person gambling but also on friends and relatives. Protests eventually lead to the government to act and, with increasing pressure, those acts have come into force. However, for some it’s devastating news. FOBT’s are, or should I say were, a huge source of income for bookmakers, accounting for an estimated 50% of a high street bookmaker’s revenue alone. These new changes will inevitably lead to dramatic losses of income making it difficult for the shops to remain profitable, especially the smaller ones. We recently released an article, in fact, on the open letter from William Hill asking landlords to reduce their rent in order to help them survive, and you can read more on that here.
But, the changes are here and they are here to stay. In fact, The Gambling Commission has written to the bookmakers to remind them to ensure their players are protected. The chief executive of the Gambling Commission, Neil McArthur, had this to say:
“We have been closely monitoring operators’ plans to manage the implementation of the stake cut and we will continue to watch very carefully to ensure that any changes and developments to these products are done with a focus on customer safety. “Together with Government and the industry we must continue our ongoing work to make the whole industry safer – this includes continuing to make progress with making other products safer, as customers may move to gamble in other ways following the stake cut – including online, mobile and on the high street. It’s imperative that operators invest in and use data, technology and measures to identify harmful play and can step in to protect players when needed. They should be innovating to protect their customers, as much as they do to make a profit.”
These are some strong words and a stark reminder that from now and in the future, bookmakers must ensure they do all they can to protect players. If you think that’s all there is to be done though, think again. There are many more plans to protect players in the future. For instance, in May, new identity and age check rules will be coming into force in order to help protect children from gambling and playing free to play versions, potentially leading to gambling for real money later on. Additional areas that could be affected include gambling blocking software, banning credit cards and improving the way those with gambling addictions are treated. When and how some of these new changes could be implemented is anyone’s guess, but one thing’s for certain. The Gambling Commission is far from done in its efforts to ensure gambling is better controlled and putting fewer people at risk.