Fixed odds betting terminal

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Poster (on left) advertising fixed-odds betting terminals at a William Hill shop in Worthing.

A fixed odds betting terminal (FOBT) is an electromechanical device normally found in betting shops in the United Kingdom that allows players to bet on the outcome of various games and events with fixed odds. They were introduced to UK shops in 2001.[1]

The most commonly played game is roulette. The minimum amount wagered per spin is £1. The maximum bet cannot exceed a payout of £500 (i.e. putting £14.00 on a single number on roulette). The largest single payout cannot exceed £500.[2] Token coins can be of value as low as five pence in some UK licensed betting offices (LBOs).[citation needed]

Other games include bingo, simulated horseracing and greyhound racing, and a range of slot machine games.

Like all casino games, the "house" (i.e. the casino) has a built-in advantage, with current margins on roulette games being theoretically between 2.7% and 5%.

Legislation[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

Under current UK legislation, these machines are allowed to offer content classed as Category B2, Category B3 as well as Category C content. The main article tabulates the legal maximum stakes and payouts.

Shops are allowed up to four terminals, although this number also includes traditional slot machines. Most shops favour the new FOBTs over the traditional slot machines. The Gambling Commission reports that there were 33,319 FOBTs in Britain's Betting Offices between October 2011 & September 2012.[3]

FOBTs have been criticised due to the potential for addiction when playing the machines. They have been dubbed the "crack cocaine" of gambling by critics.[4][5] In response to this criticism, in 2014 bookmakers represented by the Association of British Bookmakers introduced the facility for customers to set time and money limits when using FOBTs.[6]

Scotland[edit]

As a result of the Scottish Referendum on Independence on 18 September 2014, The Smith Commission convened, led by Lord Smith of Kelvin KT. On 27 November 2014 the Report of the Smith Commission for further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament was published.[7] Page 22 under the heading "Betting, Gaming and Lotteries" states "The Scottish Parliament will have the power to prevent the proliferation of Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals". All five main parties (SNP, Greens, Conservative, Labour, Liberal) agreed the terms of the report. Devolution of this power to the Scottish Parliament will be enacted through the UK parliament in due course. Page 11 of the report states : "The UK government has undertaken to produce draft clauses implementing" ... this and ... "will publish these clauses by 25th Jan 2015".

Northern Ireland[edit]

There are over 900 FOBTs in operation in Northern Ireland, but campaign group Fairer Gambling argues that they may not be legal under Northern Irish law, as the Gambling Act 2005 only applies in England, Wales and Scotland. In 2015 the Department for Social Development said that only a judge could rule on their legality.[8]

Ireland[edit]

A 2008 betting review in Ireland has ruled that the machines should not be introduced in Irish betting shops but will be allowed in casinos.[9]

Money laundering[edit]

It is claimed FOBTs are used for money laundering by paying cash into the terminal, making low-risk bets which involve a small relative loss, and withdrawing most of the proceeds as a voucher which is exchanged for cash at the shop counter.[10] although recent changes in the UKGC regulators code has sought to eradicate the potential for money laundering. (UKGC LCCP))

References[edit]