Lowering the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) could increase the risk of problem gambling, warns a new study by university experts published today.
Reducing the current £100 stake limit on FOBTs could lead to riskier and more volatile behaviour, and greater losses among players, according to an independent report by professors at the University of Liverpool and the University of Salford.
The findings will be a major blow to a group of MPs who called this week for FOBT stake limits to be cut to just £2 in a report funded by the casino and arcade industries and condemned by the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) as “deeply flawed” and “one-sided”.
The FOBTs in British Betting Shops report, commissioned by the GambleAware charity, examined the impact on customer behaviour since new restrictions on FOBTs were introduced in April 2015.
The changes mean customers wishing to stake over £50 are now required to use loyalty cards or pay over the counter.
The executive summary of the study – conducted by Professor David Forrest at the University of Liverpool and Professor Ian McHale at the University of Salford – found that any move to lower the maximum stake to £50 could “increase harm”.
It warned (Point 14 of Executive Summary) the lower limit “would make for greater volatility in returns and an increased frequency of very high losses over a session. This could increase harm”.
The report also found that, while the new stake limit resulted in less money being staked above £50, this was closely followed by an increase in total stakes from bets just within the new ‘soft cap’ of £50.
This meant players preferred not to opt into the new scheme but rather decided to spend a similar total amount of money using lower stakes over a longer period of time. However, players placed riskier bets at these lower stake levels with a lower chance of winning, the report said.
In a significant blow to suggestions the stake limit should be cut, the study concluded (Point 16): “Generally, our findings do not support the proposition that nudging players towards lower stakes mitigated harm or made play more responsible.”
Commenting, Association of British Bookmakers Chief Executive Malcolm George said:
“The findings of this independent report clearly conclude there is no evidence that cutting the maximum stake would reduce problem gambling. We have always said that the small number of MPs and others who have suggested lower FOBT limits should look at the evidence.
People need to be aware that some of the measures put forward by the casino and arcade industries would do more harm than good. We continue to work with GambleAware and others to help the very small number of customers who have problems with their gambling.”