The UK Gambling Commission’s call for the industry to do more to tackle the issue and the revelation that the rates of problem gambling had gone up to 0.8% of over-16s, up 100,000 to 430,000 since 2012, is not good news for the sector.
But really, it all comes back to FOBTs and (let’s be honest) their deleterious impact on the debate and the image of the industry. Readers might think the Diary has it in for the Association of British Bookmakers, but who thinks it’s ok to put out comments like: “problem gambling levels in the UK are stable”; when it knows full well the mainstream press and anti-gambling campaigners are going to go for them?
“Seeking to ban a single gambling product will simply lead to the shifting of problem gamblers to other areas rather than addressing the root cause of the issue.”Association of British Bookmakers for the Guardian
So is the ABB saying problem gamblers do play on FOBTs? Even though there’s no relationship between problem gambling and FOBTs? And what are the root causes of problem gambling? ABB, much like it always has when it comes to FOBTs, doesn’t have much constructive to say on the subject. Interestingly, the RGA’s Clive Hawkswood was much more conciliatory in his comments to the press this week, ‘cos, you know, he realises the industry is not winning the PR war and is adapting accordingly.
Apparently DCMS is up for reducing stake levels on FOBTs but the Treasury isn’t so keen as it looks at its tax take. Oh well, back to those life certainties: any reduction in stake levels will surely lead to tax rises on other gambling products to make up the shortfall.