The newly announced code of conduct by British bookmakers was met by mixed reactions from the industry.
Last week the Association of British Bookmakers has introduced a new code of conduct to amend the British gambling laws. The main points of the new scheme is the ability of gamers to set their own limits on the amount of time and money they spend on a variety of gambling machines. It’s especially valid for the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals or FOBTs, which are placed in various sportsbooks land-based shops.
Other points of the new code of conduct
Besides the optional limits by gamers themselves, the code has other, mandatory points. These include alerts to be installed on the gambling machines notifying players that they have spent a certain amount of time or/and money playing. The alerts will go off after 30 minutes of continuous play or after a player spends GBP 250 in a single session.
The sports betting land-based shop operators and staff will undergo special training, helping them to identify problem gamers and being able to provide them with necessary advice and support. The alerting software will be installed on over 33,000 machines across the country, but it’s testing and final implementation may take up to six months.
Reactions to the code of conduct
The move by the Association of British Bookmakers has received a warm welcome from the MP Philip Davies, whose family is renowned for running a small bookies business in the past.
Association of British Bookmakers code of conduct meets mixed reactions
• Opponents agree it’s a step in the right direction, but more can be done
• Campaigners urge to change British gambling laws, banning or limiting FOBTs
• Limits and notification alerts to be added compulsory to gambling machines
The Conservative MP from Shipley, had the following comments for British gambling news: “Bookmakers have shown they have no interest in relying on problem gamblers and are doing as much as they can to ensure people spend only what they can afford to lose in a time scale that is acceptable.”
He went on to add: “The alternative is that people play exactly the same games at home on the internet with an unlimited amount of time and money. I much prefer that people play in a public area with controls in place.”
However, Councilor David Green, the Bradford Council leader, opined that the code will not make a major difference when it comes to Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. Although the Councilor acknowledged the fact that the code of conduct is a step in the right direction.
Green told the reporters: “I don’t think the safe limit is going to work for problem gamblers because that needs the individual to recognize they have got a problem. To some extent this is an attempt at damage limitation, but I don’t think it addresses the fundamental problem that Fixed Odds Betting Terminals cause.”
The Councilor was particularly interested in just how the machine alerts will work in reality. He mentioned the issues of how individual gamblers will react to these notifications, and how helpful the staff at local brick-and-mortar will be.
Campaigning against FOBTs
The most notable opposition of the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals comes from the Campaign for Fairer Gambling. The organization is trying to stop or at least limit the widespread of FOBTs. Their Beat The Betting Blight campaign is proposing a change in regulations at the local council level.
According to campaigners the councils should receive the necessary rights to stop sports betting shops operators from opening business at new locations in cases where such betting shops will disturb the overall local shopping environment. The United Kingdom government rejected these calls in the beginning on the year.
More reactions from the concerned parties
CEO of the Association of British Bookmakers, Dirk Vennix, opined the new code has been devised with the full support of the gambling industry. And that it was designed to help to give gamblers more “control” and “encourage responsible gambling”.
He said: “We recognise growing concerns that some customers are spending too much money or too much time on gaming machines. We believe the measures strike the right balance between protecting customers without stopping the enjoyment of the eight million people who play on gaming machines without any problems.”
United Kingdom Culture Minister, Helen Grant, applauded the code as a “positive step in the right direction”, but opined that the government is confident “more could be done” to help protect punters and especially problem gamers.
She said: “Problem gambling is a serious issue and we are determined to help tackle it. We want there to be a competitive gambling sector but not at the expense of public protection, and our ongoing review is focused on that.”
The Responsible Gambling Trust was approached by the Association of British Bookmakers and asked to create an independent body with a task of regular review of the new code and its implementation.
Chief executive officer of the RGT, Marc Etches, had the following comments: “The evaluation will assess the code’s short-term and long-term impacts on consumer behaviour and will form an important part of the RGT’s recently announced programme of research into gaming machines located in licensed betting offices.”