Will the FOBT Cap Signal the End of Offline Gambling?

<h2>How Much will the Betting Threshold be Capped by?</h2>


When the initial review was announced back in October, the nation's leading bookmakers were already braced for a significant reduction in the maximum stake threshold for FOBTs.


At present, players can place maximum, single wagers of £100 every 20 seconds through these terminals, equating to an optimal spend of £300 during one minute of gameplay. This has been described as inappropriate by regulator, while the DCMS has even previously described FOBTs as being like “the crack cocaine of gambling”.


While it was initially thought that regulators would reduce the maximum betting threshold by half to around £50, the recent tone has changed and it now appears increasingly likely to regulators will implement a full-scale clampdown on FOBTs nationwide. Under pressure from campaigners who have claimed that these terminals are used to deliberately target vulnerable gamblers (a claim rejected by operators), it's fully expected that the DCMS will recommend capping the maximum bet at just £2 when its findings are officially announced early next week.


<h2>Will this Signal the End for Offline Gambling?</h2>


Given that bookmakers were preparing to lobby for a £50 cap during the 12-week consultation period that will follow the initial recommendation, the potential decision to introduced a threshold of £2 could decimate the industry. Remember, the total FOBT spend by customers amounted to a staggering £1.7 billion in the year ending September 2015, while this accounted for around 56% of the profits earned by betting shops during the same period.


If the worst-case scenario did unfold, bookmakers claim that up to 9,000 betting shops would become almost immediately unprofitable, and these outlets would most likely face closure by the end of 2020.


This revelation has cast a huge shadow on the offline gambling sector in the UK, which despite recent growth continues to lose market share to online operators. The subsequent closure of up 9,000 high street outlets could therefore deliver a knockout blow, signalling the end of bricks-and-mortar gambling in the UK and forcing bookmakers that remain profitable to focus almost all of their future expansion efforts online.


Of course, bookmakers will have a right to reply during the 12-week consultation period and will also have the right to pursue legal action if a £2 stake threshold is implemented. There's no doubt that the new regulations could ultimately usher in the end of offline gambling in the UK, while costing the economy thousands of jobs in a sector that was previously thriving.
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