Two high street bookmakers remove new products over FOBT limit concerns
High street bookmakers Paddy Power Betfair and BetFred have pulled new products following concerns that they could undermine reduced maximum stakes on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
The move by the two firms followed a warning from the Gambling Commission, who said it was concerned the new products undermined a reduction of the stake limit for FOBTs from £100 to £2 introduced on Monday to help protect vulnerable players.
The commission said the firms could still face regulatory action.
A third bookmaker who was poised to launch a new product has also been warned, the commission said.
The announcement follows a letter from the commission’s chief executive Neil McArthur to bookmakers warning the industry against any attempts to circumvent the FOBT stake cut and reminding them of their responsibilities to ensure their consumers are protected.
On Monday the commission said it was investigating the introduction of new virtual roulette-style games by bookmakers as restrictions on betting machines come into force.
It came as Betfred launched a new virtual cycling game in which customers can bet up to £500.
The Gambling Commission said it was aware of new products and would “not hesitate to step in” if businesses were “failing to act responsibly”.
A spokesman for Betfred said on Monday the FOBT restrictions would have a “seismic change” on betting shops, but added that its new products were “not machine games but over-the-counter bets”.
Richard Watson, the commission’s executive director for enforcement, said: “We have been absolutely clear with operators about our expectations to act responsibly following the stake cut implementation this week.
“We have told operators to take down new products which undermine the changes, and we will investigate any other products that are not within the spirit and intention of the new rules.”
Labour’s deputy leader and shadow secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, Tom Watson, said on Twitter: “The gambling industry appear to be trying to cheat the system with these new roulette-style games.
“They clearly haven’t learned any lessons – if they won’t reform themselves a Labour government is determined to do it for them.”
The £2 cap on FOBTs was recommended by the Gambling Commission in March last year and is backed by the Government as part of efforts to reduce gambling-related harm.