The truth about gaming in a betting shops
B2 gaming machines are one type of machines on offer in betting premises. They offer a range of different gaming options including virtual racing and casino style games. There is currently a limit of four B2 machines per betting shop. The maximum stake on a B2 machine is £100 (in multiples of £10) with the maximum prize set at £500.
Gaming machines are a popular British leisure product enjoyed safely and responsibly by the vast majority of our customers. There are currently around 140,000 gaming machines in operation in the UK across all gambling sectors. 35,000 gaming machines are in betting shops and the number has remained stable for the last three years.
The average amount spent by a customer on a B2 gaming machine is circa £10 per machine per hour. The 2010 British Gambling Prevalence Survey shows that 70% of B2 players play once a month or less which is hardly reflective of an addictive product. Whilst there is no empirical evidence of a causal link between gaming machines and problem gambling, the industry continually strives to make sure the public can enjoy fair and responsible gambling.
The world’s leading providers of server-based gaming (Electronic Gaming Machines) are UK companies. They supply and operate nearly 70,000 terminals in 22 countries. Innovation in betting shops drove the development of this successful British export.
A Brief History
The National Lottery was launched in 1994. The Henley Centre found that in 1995 betting office profits were 35 per cent lower than they would have been in the absence of the Lottery. Government revenues from betting had fallen by £82 million, 400 betting shops had closed by the end of 1995, and more than 3,400 industry jobs had been lost. Needless to say, these were very challenging times for bookmakers.
In response the industry innovated and introduced new products like ‘magic numbers’ which allowed customers to bet on the outcome of Irish Lottery. Deregulation of Betting and Gaming Order 1996 permitted the opening of shop fronts, shop window marketing, the sale of snacks and refreshments and the introduction of Amusements with Prizes (AWPs) – often referred to as Fruit Machines or One Armed Bandits.
The introduction of a Gross Profits Tax (GPT) system for the betting industry in 2001 allowed the introduction of lower margin products, which previously were not viable. Roulette was introduced to the quick draw terminals which became known as Fixed Odd Betting Terminals (FOBTs) and a number of new suppliers entered the market. The products proved popular and, driven by customer demand, sales increased which led to further innovation.
This was before the advent of the Gambling Act 2005 and betting terminals were not subject to any legislation or regulation. Betting shops want to attract a wide spectrum of customers to their stores; they can only do this by offering them a safe and responsible leisure experience. In 2003 ABB and its members produced an Industry Code of Practice governing the supply and use of FOBTs in betting shops. The Code set limits governing the maximum permitted stakes and prizes, the number of machines per shop and the speed of play. And from 19 November 2003, ABB membership was only open to bookmakers who accepted and operated according to the conditions of the Code.
The code was accepted by the Department for Culture Media and Sport, the Gambling Board and the industry. Peter Dean, Chairman of the Gaming Board of Great Britain said, “It was the best example of commercial / regulator co-operation he had seen.” The legislative and regulatory measures currently in place are founded on industry best practice and voluntary measures such as the ABB Industry Code of Practice.
The industry fully supports the rigorous enforcement of the provisions in the 2005 Gambling Act; and is committed to the regular review of its codes to ensure that the most up-to-date, relevant and effective processes are in place to identify and support patrons who may be at risk of or experiencing difficulties with their gambling behaviour.
- The 2010 British Gambling Prevalence Survey found that: problem gambling levels for the whole gambling industry have remained at less than 1% – which is low by international standards – and the percentage of identified problem gamblers playing on B2 machines actually went down by nearly 25% from 2007 to 2010.
- The 2010 British Gambling Prevalence Survey found that: B2 Gaming Machines (FOBTs) players are more likely to be educated to degree level or higher than to have no formal qualifications, and the overwhelming majority had GCSEs, A-Levels or another professional qualification.
- The 2010 British Gambling Prevalence Survey found that those who are unemployed are far more likely to participate in other forms of gambling than playing B2 Gaming Machines. Of those surveyed 53% said they gambled on the national lottery, 32% scratchcards, 23% slot machines, 21% Horse races, 18% private betting, 18% sports betting, 16% another lottery, 15% online gambling, 14% bingo and 12% said they played on B2 gaming machines.
- Statements such as “you can lose £18,000 an hour playing on a B2 machine” are a total fabrication. It assumes you play the maximum stake of £100 every 20 seconds and lose everything on 180 consecutive spins. The statistical probability of that happening is akin to buying a single National Lottery Ticket and scooping the jackpot 3 weeks in a row.
- Betting shop operators are high-regulated responsible businesses that respond to customer demand. If demand is not met then it is likely that the ‘black market’ will become even bigger. For example, 140 illegal gaming machines were seized in London last year.