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The Origin and Decline of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals – FOBT

You may or may not have heard about FOBT or Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. They have been around the gambling scene since 2000 and during this period has caused enough controversy to write a script and possibly direct a movie based on the FOBT machine. 

The rise and decline of such machines is a story in itself and only a detailed timeline can tell you all that happened. So sit back, grab some popcorn and read through the rise and decline of FOBT. 

The Origin and Decline of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals - FOBT

The Launch of FOBT

The launch of FOBT was seen as a dive into the future and not a product that would be the face of controversy. Betting shops around the country started using it and began replacing old fashioned fruit machines even though they were a staple in clubs, casinos, service stations and beyond.

The FOBT concept allowed a punter to choose different kinds of casino games from the same terminal, something which fruit machines could not provide. So bookmakers started using it and by 2005, around 20,000 FOBTs were in operation. 

FOBT to the Rescue

FOBT was largely credited for saving betting shops that were running out of fire. While there used to be 15,000-16,000 of these shops, a natural decline saw that number reduce to 9,000 and kept on increasing year after year. 

However, the launch and popularity of FOBT did come to the rescue and was successfully able to halt the decline to a huge extent. Thus, the machine not only supported a number of casino games but also saved betting shops.

FOBT’s Biggest Effects

FOBT’s launch also saw the introduction of a new framework around limits for stakes. Having been classified as B2 gaming machines, they had to be governed in the same way as other B2 machines. While these aspects did not make much of a difference in the beginning, they went on to create a huge effect.

During 2009, when around 30,000 FOBT’s were in operation, large sums were being lost and gambling addiction was on the rise. These were visible signs that required government intervention. Problem gambling and FOBT were being used in the same sentence and the media kept on highlighting its effects. 

The British Gambling Prevalence Survey also highlighted the same problem when they revealed that problem gambling had been on the rise by 50% in the UK. 

Government Vs FOBT

With the rising number of effects, it was the Government’s turn to step in and take some action because this was not just an ordinary mobile casino game but a newly launched system whose effects started to become prime time news. 

So in 2013, the Department For Culture, Media and Sport filed a proposal to address the concerns that the general public was facing with FOBT. In order to get started with it, they wanted an assessment of the maximum stakes and payouts. 

While the move was expected to bring some form of change, the Gambling Commission and the government agreed that there was a serious case at hand but the facts were not strong or valid enough to bring a change. 

Outcry Against the Verdict

The ones who wanted the government to intervene and change things were shocked to see their verdict and came out strongly against it. Liverpool council were the first to vote to ban the machines from betting shops. An alternative in the form of limiting the amount which could be lost on these machines was also suggested. However, no changes were made.

FOBT continued to operate in the country because it was not merely an online casino but a system that was at the centre of controversy. So while changes were not being made at the moment, the outcry meant that sooner or later something had to change.

Testing and Changes

With pressure, outcry and every other possible reaction being levelled against FOBT, the time to take some swift action had already passed. And the Responsible Gambling Trust (RBT) handed over the FBOT for testing to the University of Lincoln. It was the first time an independent source was able to test the product and it was mainly done to understand how far these machines could be pushed to generate extreme wins and losses.

And with the results indicating the areas for change, new mounting pressure to act upon the same grew louder than players winning at online slots. While everyone knew that FOBT was one of the main causes for problem gambling, little did they know about the amount of losses that it had generated. 

A survey conducted at that time indicated that British Gamblers lost a total of €13.8bn, out of which €1.82bn came from losing in FOBT. Due to that, the main solution that was widely quoted at that time was to change the maximum stake amount from €100 to €2 per spin.

Government Vs Bookmakers

The main solution of reducing the stake amount was regarded as an important change and the government finally agreed to move on with the decision prompting a reaction from bookmakers. Their main point of concern was that the move would affect employment and seriously impact the tens of thousands working in the industry. 

Apart from that, they also highlighted that the decision would also reduce the amount of taxes that the government receives. However, the changes were made as they were considered to be quite important. Thus began a battle between the government and bookmakers with William Hill being one of the first companies to go public about their disapproval. 

The company stated that they were bound to close up around 900 betting shops that will also result in the loss of 4,500 jobs. Losses amounting to excess of €800 million were also reported and William Hill had to even negotiate with some landlords in order to cut costs. While William Hill was one of the main companies that went public, there were plenty of others who had suffered similar losses. 

Unlike reducing the stakes of mobile slots, the reduction in FOBT’s betting stake largely affected betting shops that survived on the profits from these products. 

The Fight Continues

The government’s decision to place changes on FOBT’s was set up to take place from April of 2019. While they did backtrack to move the decision until October 2019, they came back to honour the original date. And in terms of reactions, Paddy Power and Betfred were the first to release new games 48 hours after the bill was passed.

The games, which took a roulette-style shape but was not exactly a roulette game, required players to bet over the counter with a member of staff and not a machine. Players were able to bet decent money per spin, which was more than FOBT’s spin limit but both the companies stated that the game did not break any rules.

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Post Name : The Origin and Decline of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals – FOBT

Posted On : 14/12/2021

Author : Cameron Riddell