FOBT stakes set to send punters online

What could be bad news for UK betting shops could be great news for online casinos if a story in this week’s The Sunday Times is to be believed.

The newspaper claims the overwhelming response to the public consultation regarding the maximum stakes for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) has been a call to reduce the current maximum bet from £100 to just £2.  

The public consultation in regards to the future of FOBTs closes this week but it is unlikely an announcement on future stakes will be made until March.  The options originally set out by the government included stakes of £50, £30, £2 and a split of £20 for games such as roulette and £2 for slots.

However, the Association of British Bookmakers has previously claimed there would be drastic consequences should the government reduce stakes.  They stated a £2 maximum stake would lead to 4,500 betting shop closures and the loss of 21,000 jobs by 2020. Furthermore there would be a loss of £1.1 billion in tax receipts for the Treasury and £290 million in lost levy and media rights payments for racing.

More calls for change in the law

Meanwhile a story in the Sunday Express highlights a call to the government from some of the UK’s leading casinos – London’s Hippodrome Casino,  Crown Aspinalls and Crockfords – to allow them to issue credit to ‘high rollers’, particularly visiting foreigners.

In the story Simon Thomas, chief executive of London’s Hippodrome Casino, said: “Worldwide, high-end customers get what we call a ‘marker’ – they are allowed to gamble on credit rather than having to transfer money from country to country and be subject to the vagaries of different exchange rates.  

“All we’re asking for is a simple change in the law to allow customers in British casinos to do the same.” Explaining the advantages of issuing credit to high staking customers Mr Thomas added: “At the high-end we pay 50 percent of any money lost to the Government in tax on our gross profits, and corporation tax on top of that.”

Online the spot for Slots

Perhaps the most outstanding part of the Express story was the disclosure the London Hippodrome Casino is allowed just 20 slots which are all subject to a maximum wager of just £5.

It is an amazingly low figure considering neighbouring betting shops can offer customers £100 a spin on FOBTs and online casinos which also operate as bookmakers, such as William Hill, can accommodate customers for up to £3,000 a spin.