LGA | Briefing on Misuse of FOBTs in betting shops

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09 February 2015

Misuse of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in betting shops 

Many councils have long held concerns about the impact of clustering of betting shops in their areas, as well as the associated proliferation of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs): each betting shop is permitted up to 4 FOBTs. The machines have a maximum stake of £100, significantly above the maximum stake that can be played on other types of gaming machines.

In 2014, the LGA set up a ‘Betting Commission’ to bring together councils, the Association of British Bookmakers and the ‘Big Five’ firms (William Hill, Coral, BetFred, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power). This led to a joint LGA-ABB framework to encourage closer engagement between councils and betting shops to address local concerns.

While there is an important role for partnership working between councils and the industry, fundamental changes are needed to enable councils to tackle betting shop clustering and the risk of harm posted by FOBTs to vulnerable people.

The LGA is calling for:

o Cumulative impact tests to be introduced to enable councils to reject applications for new betting shops where there are already existing clusters of shops.

o Licensing laws to be updated to allow councils to take health issues associated with problem gambling and anti-social behaviour concerns into account when considering applications.

o On FOBT stakes, councils believe the current £100 maximum stake should be brought in line with maximum stakes for other gambling machines allowed in betting shops (£2) and casinos (£5).

The Smith Commission recommended the Scottish Parliament should have the power to “prevent the proliferation of FOBTs.” Clause 33 of the Draft Scotland Clauses 2015 will devolve legislative competence to Scotland to vary the number of FOBTs authorised by a new betting premises licence. Scottish Ministers will be given power to make an order following a debate in Parliament to vary the number of FOBTs and will therefore be able to influence how many gaming machines are available for use in Scotland.

The LGA would like the Government to clarify whether councils will also be given the same powers as Scotland to vary the numbers of FOBTs. 

In November 2014, Newham Council lodged a Sustainable Communities Act proposal with the Department for Communities and Local Government demanding that the Government reduces the maximum stakes on FOBTs from £100 a spin to £2. In Newham alone there are currently 86 betting shop premises licenses, an increase of almost 30 per cent since 2007. Ninety-three councils have now signed up to Newham Council’s submission.

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