Bookmakers pen letter in “last ditch” attempt to turn Hancock

Building on the same shaky foundations that have toxified the Triennial Review, the CEOs of several major bookmakers have penned a letter to DCMS leader Matt Hancock asking him not to cut FOBT maximum stakes to £2.


Bookmaker chief executives have penned a “last ditch” letter to Matt Hancock, secretary of state for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), urging the government to reverse its plans to implement a £2 wagering limit on FOBTs machines.

The letter to Hancock is signed by the leadership of GVC Holdings, William Hill, Betfred, Scotbet and Jenningsbet, and details the same tactics about ‘catastrophic consequences’ that the ABB has been reciting since the beginning of the review, yet is still to show any proof of.

“As the chief executives of UK retail betting shops we would like to express our alarm, that according to media reports, the government has determined that the maximum stake on betting shop gaming machines should be reduced from £100 to the lowest possible level of £2,” say the gambling executives in their letter. They continued: “We acknowledge that the government is committed to reducing the maximum stake, however this should be a proportionate response and consistent with the evidence.

“For the avoidance of any doubt, we believe a £2 maximum stake is a disproportionate response and will be catastrophic for retail betting in the UK, with widespread consequences for people’s livelihoods and the wider economy.”

The letter, however, is founded on the same unseen KPMG report that has yet to have any apparent resonance on the DCMS’ triennial thought process. With the outcome of the review potentially less than a week away, this move by the CEOs of several major bookmakers represents a last stand to prevent a £2 maximum stake on FOBTs.

Led by William Hill boss Philip Bowcock, the executive ensemble from five bookmakers, as well as the ABB, are seeking one final meeting with the secretary of state.

However, some industry commentators are unclear as to how this gathering will dramatically change things. And in truth, this doubt has validity, not least because it is hard to see how Team Betting will persuade Hancock by firing the same unsubstantiated blanks as previously.

It is also uncertain that the new emerging argument, according to the Times, of “claims that gamblers will fall into the hands of rogue, underground betting dens if FOBTs from closed shops find their way on to eBay”, will gain any serious traction; a view already shot down from within the broader industry.

Bacta’s CEO John White quickly dismissed this last fear-mongering gasp from the bookmakers. “This last ditch attempt to scare the Government away from doing the right thing would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. FOBT Terminals are already changed for new models every three years and don’t end up in some illegal market,” stated White. “Those terminals are reused primarily through export markets and as SSBTs – (Self-service betting terminals) which are now appearing in bookmakers. Furthermore, FOBT games are serverbased products and so simply wouldn’t work on any non-authorised premises. Indeed, in the well regulated UK market it’s hard to even identify an illegal market of gambling machines.”

In the meantime, FOBTs are clearly drinking in the last chance saloon; the likelhood remains though, that they will struggle to keep their glasses at least half full?

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