The crusade for a safer gambling environment in the UK has received a further boost by a report in The Guardian stating that the imposed reduction of the maximum allowed bet on the fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to £2 resulted into 38% drop in police callouts to deal with violent customers after losing money.
Excessive Losses Lead to Violence
Total number of callout to police from bookies in 2019 was 1,803, compared to 2,907 for the previous year, despite the fact that the imposed limit was active for only 3 months during 2019. Total number of incidents fell by 23% compared to 2017 and more than half to the 4,060 cases reported in 2016.
Numbers clearly vindicate the efforts of MPs and other groups while seeking to impose the limits, facing the strong opposition from street bookmakers who claimed most of their revenues came from the controversial betting terminals. By curbing the potential of the machines decision-makers managed to significantly reduce the strain on the police forces.
Despite claims from the Gambling Commission that the stake reduction was not the only factor behind the decreased cases of violence, pointing out to the improved links between betting shops and the police, falling crime rates and a lower number of betting shops, the £2 limit turned out to be an effective measure. In addition to the reduced cost to the public purse, the measure provided protection for gamblers against excessive losses and gambling-related harm.
“The direct impact of the FOBT stake cut was always going to be about the reduction of harm to the individual gambler.”Tracey Crouch, Former Sports Minister
Tax Contributions Loss Offset by Police Costs
Another deterrent that was outlined during the long-running debate preceding the implementation of the stake limit was from Treasury officials who expressed worries that more than £450 million in annual tax contributions come from FOBT operations.
In turned out, however, that a big chunk of these contributions come from incorrectly applied VAT and, after a long legal battle with the HMRC which the industry finally won, operators of betting terminals are about to file for VAT refunds for millions of pounds.
The timing of the report coincides with the call by a group of Members of Parliament (MPs) for the implementation of changes in the industry. In what looks like to become the biggest shake-up of the gambling industry in the UK so far, politicians are pushing for online slot limit, suspension of VIP schemes and total ban of gambling-related advertisements. And the success of the retail stake limit as outlined by the findings in the report will provide the perfect platform to argue the proposed measures would have similar outcome.