Ireland to Debate Own £2 FOBTs Limits

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ty, Flickr

  • Norther Ireland to consider introducing £2 FOBTs limit
  • Ladbrokes has already agreed to limit the maximum stakes voluntarily
  • Cllr Dr John Kyle to discuss proposal with Belfast City Council

Northern Ireland will also look into Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in a bid to determine what the maximum allowable stake level will be.

The UK’s FOBTs Odyssey

Ireland is mostly a different beast than the United Kingdom. When local government tried to hike the tax rate to 2% of the gambling revenue, the majority of operators stated that they would consider pulling off the market, and this scared politicians enough to reconsider.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, lawmakers were ruthless, hiking the tax rate to 21% from previously 15%. While the industry has grumbled, politicians have been adamant in their resolve, especially when a minister turned in her resignation, protesting delay into the implementation of certain rules, particularly those related to FOBTs.

FOBTs are considered to be the source of great pains in the United Kingdom. Because of the £100 maximum bet, the machines are linked to higher suicide rates, gambling addiction, and understandably – financial ruin.

After the government voted a change that is to be pushed through in April, these machines will only allow gamers to stake a maximum amount of £2. The results will be highly beneficial from a consumer standpoint, with people avoiding spending life-threatening amounts and feeding a dangerous addiction habit.

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Many businesses tried to warn that this would lead to job losses, but the UK government said that they would rather safe lives than jobs, pointing out that staff could be relocated. In a word, the government did not cave in to panicky demands and even the 21% tax rate and the measure against FOBTs turn out to be something gambling operators can handle.

The only drawback, of course, is that it will reduce such businesses’ profits, making the delays “immoral” in the eyes of many lawmakers.

Ireland to Look into Its Own FOBTs

Following the news that the maximum bets will be cut, Irish politicians are now debating how to handle their own machines at home. Hopefully, the issue wouldn’t lead to the same discontent within the government as it did in the United Kingdom. Some companies have acted pre-emptively though, with GVC Holdings’ Ladbrokes (one of the companies to oppose the tax hike in Ireland) noting that it would implement the same £2 level for its terminals in Ireland as it will be doing elsewhere.

The government seems to be on the same page, or at least the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) has expressed hopes that others will follow the example of Ladbrokes:

The Council calls on betting companies operating in Northern Ireland to follow the decision of Ladbrokes to voluntarily reduce the stakes on FOBT machines in this jurisdiction, in line with the rest of the UK

Irish politicians have called that the Northern Ireland Department of Health should provide more support to those suffering from gambling addiction as well as provide a special treatment service created specifically for the needs of gambling addicts.

A broader debate will take place on Monday when Cllr Dr John Kyle will deposit a motion with the Belfast City Council, asking of Irish bookmakers and gambling companies to rev up their efforts in protecting Irish gamblers from harm.

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