New laws that make it harder for players to lose huge amounts of money when playing no deposit casino bonus FOBT machines are cutting into UK bookmakers’ profits. The land-based and online casino bookies are fighting back by coming up with new gambling options that circumvent the new regulations.
One new method, which is proving to be popular with bettors at bookmaker shops involves a “turbo” button that has been added to roulette-style machines. The turbo button halves the time that it takes for a roulette ball to come to a halt in a spinning wheel. It allows the player to get instant results and to gamble for double the amount of time.
Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) are a type of electronic casino game machine. They are typically found in UK betting shops and allow players to bet on the outcome of events and games which have fixed odds. The theoretical percentage return to the player is displayed on the machine’s screen since the “house” has a built in advantage.
The most common type of FOBT is roulette where the minimum bet is approximately $2 and the maximum allowed wager is close to $200. There are additional types of FOBTs including slots, bingo, horse racing and greyhound racing.
FOBTs have come under a lot of criticism in the UK in recent years because, critics say, they lead vulnerable players into problem gambling behaviors. The machines give you a win or a loss at lightning speeds and, while they provide for a high level of gaming interaction, they also make it possible for a player to lose massive amounts of money in a short amount of time.
In April 2019, a new law came into effect in the UK which set the maximum bet for FOBTs at approximately $4. The move was designed to curb the dangers that high bets on fast-moving machines were creating. The betting shops lobbied strenuously against the new law because, they asserted, reducing their profits so drastically would cause them irreparable damage and would lead to the closing of many shops.
To counter the effects of the new law, some of the larger bookmakers have been searching for ways to get around, what they see, as an economic catastrophe. They started by introducing new roulette-style machines which are not technically FOBTs but are similar in that the bets can go high and the games are played quickly.
Two of the biggest bookmakers, PADDY Power and Betfred, tried their new games – Betfred’s was “Virtual Cycling” and Paddy Power’s machine was “Pick ‘n 36.” Both are similar to roulette but the operators declared that they were different because they are more interactive and entertaining. The intense criticism forced the companies to withdraw the games but they didn’t back down. Now they’ve introduced the Turbo option and the 7 second ball.
Turbo and 7 Second Ball
Turbo buttons were created to deliver instant results on their roulette games which observers note, allow the players to play more games for more time (and lose more money in a shorter amount of time). In addition, Ladbrokes, one of the UK’s largest betting shop operators, has halved the length of time that it takes for the roulette wheel’s electronic “ball” to come to a stop – instead of the customary 14 seconds, the ball now stops in 7 seconds.
Critics are outraged. They say that the moves are ploys to get people betting more money more quickly. They object that the new machines are simply a new generation of fixed-odds betting terminals – albeit machines that allow players to bet more quickly.
MP Carolyn Harris, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on FOBTs and an outspoken critic of the machines, said, "They are prepared to go to any lengths to make money off the back of the vulnerable….they never fail to amaze me. They’re just evil.”
Almost as soon as the bookies introduced their new roulette-style machines, the Gambling Commission threatened to investigate those machines to ascertain whether they violated the new maximum-bet FOBT law. Betfred and Paddy Power withdrew those machines, which allowed customers stake up to £500 every two minutes.
Now the Commission must decide what to do about the other options for working around the FOBT maximum bet rule. Some observers want to put a stop to the betting operators’ shenanigans by making a blanket rule that requires that gambling products be approved by the Gambling Commission before they’re made public. That doesn’t seem likely at this time – a spokesman for the Gambling Commission said that they’re relying on the operators to take precautions to combat harm caused by gambling.
Judging by the actions of the operators following the implementation of the new FOBT rules, there’s a good deal of skepticism as to whether this will be enough.