Fixed-odds betting terminals: A briefing



Bringing capital taxation into the 21st century


SMPC minutes September 2016
Executive summary: 

  • Spending on fixed odd betting terminals (FOBTs) makes up only 13.6 per cent of the UK’s total gambling expenditure. This is less than half the amount spent on either lotteries or online gambling. The amount spent on FOBTs  has been greatly exaggerated in the media as a result of confusion about what is staked and what is lost.

  • Betting shops have not ‘proliferated’ in recent years. Britain currently has fewer betting shops than at any time since 2003 and has barely half as many as it had in the 1960s.

  • There is no evidence of a rise in problem gambling since 1999. Rates of problem gambling in Britain are low by international standards.

  • There is no reputable source for the claim that FOBTs are the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’. This term was coined in the 1980s and anti-gambling campaigners have used it to describe virtually every form of gambling in the years that followed.

  • FOBTs are not jackpot machines and therefore require a higher stake limit for players to get a sufficient sense of risk and reward. Anti-gambling activists have called for a £2 stake limit knowing that this would reduce consumer appeal and amount to a de facto ban.

  • FOBTs are one way for the incumbent betting industry to keep pace with changing tastes in a digital world. Regulation cannot afford to be anachronistic in a market in which punters can place unlimited bets on their mobile phones. Existing regulation and taxation is more than adequate, if not excessive, for a gambling product that is only available in licensed, adult-only establishments.

Head of Lifestyle Economics, IEA

Christopher Snowdon is the Head of Lifestyle Economics at the IEA. He is the author of The Art of Suppression, The Spirit Level Delusion and Velvet Glove; Iron Fist. His work focuses on pleasure, prohibition and dodgy statistics. He has authored a number of papers, including "Sock Puppets", "Euro Puppets", "The Proof of the Pudding", "The Crack Cocaine of Gambling" and "Free Market Solutions in Health".

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