FAQs

See below for a list of commonly asked questions about the Association of British Bookmakers and our members:

What are bookmakers doing to tackle problem gambling?

Last year the ABB launched its Code for Responsible Gambling and Player Protection, which all our members must abide by.

The Code focuses on improving our performance at four levels of harm minimisation:

  1. Issuing clearer and more accessible information on how to gamble responsibly and highlighting the sources of help available;
  2. Providing customers with new tools such as mandatory time and money based reminders, the ability to set spend and time limits on gaming machines (sometimes known as FOBTs) and to request machine session data;
  3. Training staff to detect the signs of potential problem gambling more quickly and how to interact more effectively with those identified; and
  4. Undertaking more consistent central analysis of data to identify abnormal activity both in specific shops and, where possible, that relating to individual customers.

What is a FOBT (Fixed Odd Betting Terminal) and why do betting shops have them?

When people refer to FOBTs (Fixed Odds Betting Terminals) they are usually speaking about the gaming machines which allow people to play virtual games at a terminal in the betting shop.

Gaming machines have been found in betting shops since 2002. Since the introduction of the 2005 Gambling Act betting shops are now allowed a maximum of four gaming machines per shop.

There are two categories of games available on the gaming machines betting shops are allowed. B3 games have a maximum stake of £2 whilst B2 games have a maximum stake of £100, though in reality most people stake far lower than this on average.

Is it true that gaming machines (FOBTs) cause problem gambling?

As an industry we realise that the public has become increasingly concerned about gaming machines, also known as FOBTs, and problem gambling.

The ABB Code of Conduct contained new measures to allow machine players to set their own limits on gaming machines so they can decide how much money and time they want to spend before they start playing.

Set limits

Shop staff are also trained to interact with any customers who go beyond their limits or show other signs they are not in control of their gambling.

There is no proven link between gaming machines and problem gambling but the ABB is committed in our Code to funding further research into player protection and acting on the results.

Is it true that people can lose a lot of money very quickly on gaming machines?

While in theory it is possible to bet £100 every 20 seconds, the reality is completely different.

Most people stake at a far lower level and the majority of people play for less than ten minutes and spend only £7 during their game play.

Thanks to the ABB Code of Conduct players can also set their own monetary limits when playing on electronic gaming machines, sometimes known as FOBTs, which means that they and shop staff are alerted when that limit is past.

How many betting shops are there? Are their numbers growing?

Betting shop numbers have remained stable for the last decade at around 9,000 and make up just 4 per cent of Britain’s entire retail units.

Numbers of betting shops peaked in the 1970s and 80s when there were more than 16,000 and many operators now are being forced to close shops due to increased taxes and lower profitability.

Over the last 18 months alone 400 betting shops have closed.

Bookmakers on the high street

Over recent years many traditional high street retailers have found themselves going into administration, leaving a vastly changed high street, with many shops empty.

Bookmakers have been filling that gap, moving from side streets onto vacant high street premises. However, it is equally as likely that once the economy picks up higher rents may again mean some betting shops move back into the less prime locations off the high street.

Are there bookmakers in poorer areas?

Betting shop operators only open shops in areas where there is a demand, like any other retail business, and 84% of all shops are located in commercial centres which are more densely populated.

Local Data Company

Independent research carried out by the respected Local Data Company showed that LBOs were more prevalent in affluent areas than poorer areas.

Do betting shops attract crime?

Operators take crime prevention very seriously. Betting shops are highly regulated and operators take great care to ensure a safe and secure working environment for staff and customers inside the betting shop.

According to official police figures, betting shops have among the lowest instances of crime of any high street retailer.

Safe Bet Alliance

The industry’s Safe Bet Alliance has been endorsed by the Association of Chief Police Officers and won an award from the Home Office as an example of an industry working together with each other and authorities to tackle and prevent crime.

How do bookmakers prevent illegal activity such as money laundering taking place in their shops?

Money laundering is a nationwide problem and one police forces around the country recognise as a problem for all retailers.

Money laundering

Figures released by the Serious Organised Crime Agency show the instances of money laundering in our shops account for less than 0.3 per cent of all cases reported to them.

Anti-money laundering

We have had an anti-money laundering code of conduct in place since 2007 and continue to work closely with police forces up and down the country and the regulatory financial authorities to ensure our practices are as stringent as they can possibly be. In addition, all the major operators employ specialist anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing specialists.

What is the industry doing to make sure underage people cannot gamble in betting shops?

This is an issue we take very seriously and have invested a huge amount of money and time in doing all we can to stop anyone under 18 from gambling.

We work to a Think 21 standard, where anyone who appears under 21 is asked for proof of age, and all our independent testing results, via an independent company with test purchasers aged 18-20, are reported to and published by the Gambling Commission.

We now regularly see pass rates of over 80% across our members, this is much higher than other age restricted retailers like off licences or pubs and we strive to keep our pass rates as high as we can.

What contribution do bookmakers make to horse and greyhound racing?

An independent report from Deloitte shows that betting shops contribute over £130m to horseracing alone, through the Horserace Betting Levy and things like TV rights to show races in shops.

Operators also pay a voluntary levy to greyhound racing which totals over £7m a year.

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