Gaming machines (including FOBTs) & Social Responsibility consultation announced

Gambling Minister Tracey Crouch has today announced the launch of a 12-week consultation that covers Government proposals relating to:

  • maximum stakes and prizes for all categories of gaming machines permitted under the Gambling Act 2005 (including a reduction in the maximum stakes on FOBTs),
  • allocations of gaming machines permitted in all licensed premises under the Gambling Act 2005 and
  • social responsibility measures for the industry as a whole to minimise the risk of gambling-related harm, including on gambling advertising, online gambling, gaming machines and research, education and treatment (RET).

This long-awaited announcement follows a review of gaming machines and social responsibility measures that commenced in October 2016. Its objective was to ensure we have the right balance between a sector that can grow and contribute to the economy, and one that is socially responsible and doing all it should to protect consumers and communities.

In a written Ministerial Statement, Tracey Crouch says:

  • “We believe that the current regulation of B2 gaming machines is inappropriate to achieve our stated objective of protecting consumers and wider communities. We are therefore consulting on regulatory changes to the maximum stake, looking at options between £50 and £2, in order to reduce the potential for large session losses and therefore to the potentially harmful impact on the player and their wider communities”
  • “While the industry proposes increases to the remaining stakes and prizes, and permitted numbers and allocations across other categories of machine (B1, B3, B3A, B4, C and D gaming machines), we believe retention of the current regulatory environment will better protect players from potential harm than industry’s proposed increases”
  • “We are aware that the factors which influence the extent of harm to the player are wider than one product, or a limited set of parameters such as stakes and prizes, and include factors around the player, the environment and the product. We are therefore also consulting on corresponding social responsibility measures across gaming machines that enable high rates of loss, on player protections in the online sector, on a package of measures on gambling advertising and on current arrangements for the delivery of research, education and treatment (RET). Within this package, we want to see industry, regulator and charities continue to drive the social responsibility agenda, to ensure all is being done to protect players without the need for further Government intervention, and that those in trouble can access the treatment and support they need.”

The consultation (that can be downloaded below together with the Government’s accompanying Impact Assessment) sets out a range of options on cutting maximum stakes of B2 gaming machines, otherwise known as FOBTs, from £100 to between £50 and £2. The Government has also asked the Gambling Commission:

  • for more information about how better tracking and monitoring of play on FOBTs can help with interventions to protect players and
  • if spin speed on games such as roulette should be looked at

with a view to reducing “the potential for large losses on the machines and the risk of harm to both the player and wider communities in which these machines are located, such as the increased health costs associated with problem gambling”.

Insofar as the stakes and prizes of other gaming machines are concerned, the Government is recommending that current stakes are maintained, apart from on prize bingo gaming where the Government is content with industry proposals to increase stakes from £1 to £2 and prizes from £70 to £100.

As anticipated, in addition to the 12 week consultation on FOBTs, there will be a package of measures taking effect to strengthen protections around online gambling and gambling advertising to further minimise the risk to vulnerable people and children, including:

  • “Raising standards of player protection for online gambling – The Gambling Commission will consult on changes to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice next year, with the aim of raising standards on player protection online and will set out expectations to the industry around customer interaction online”
  • “Responsible gambling campaign – GambleAware, Advertising Association, broadcasters and gambling industry groups will come together to draw up a major two year responsible gambling advertising campaign. The campaign will have a budget of £5 to £7 million per year and will include TV adverts, including around live sport, as well as radio, cinema, online and print. The campaign will be funded by gambling operators, including online-only betting firms, with airspace and digital media provided by broadcasters”
  • “New advertising guidelines – This will be drawn up by the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) to help protect those at risk of problem gambling and children and young people by ensuring that the content of gambling adverts does not encourage impulsive or socially irresponsible gambling”
  • “Strengthening the code on responsible gambling advertising – The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) is strengthening the code on responsible gambling advertising to require operators to ensure gambling content and channels cannot be accessed by under-18s via social media”
  • “Responsible gambling initiatives – Gambling operators should step up on funding for research, education and treatment. If not, Government will consider other options, including introducing a mandatory levy on gambling operators”

In relation to the above, Tracey Crouch is quoted as saying:

“It is vital that we strike the right balance between socially responsible growth and protecting the most vulnerable, including children, from gambling-related harm. Given the strong evidence and public concerns about the risks of high stakes gaming machines on the high street, we are convinced of the need for action. That is why today we have set out a package of proposals to ensure all consumers and wider communities are protected. We have seen online gambling grow rapidly and we need to protect players in this space, while also making sure those experiencing harm relating to gambling receive the help they need”.

The consultation will close on 23 January 2018, following which government will consider its final proposals. Those wishing to respond may do so online using the Government’s survey tool. Anyone wishing to provide supporting evidence that cannot be included in their survey response can email it to [email protected] or write to Gambling Review Consultation, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, 100 Parliament Street, London, SW1A 2BQ