The economic impact of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

Posted On: 
18th January 2017

Since 2013, the economic research consultancy, Landman Economics, has undertaken several research projects for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling (CFG) on the economic impact of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). This article presents a summary of their most important findings. 

Credit: 
PA

Recent survey data shows that only a small proportion of the UK population use FOBTs – between 3 and 4 %, yet these players account for 66% of all UK gaming machine losses. However, FOBT users are much more likely to be 'problem gamblers' and much more likely to contact gambling helplines due to gambling addiction or other related problems than are almost all other types of gamblers. FOBT users are more likely to be young men (aged under 35), unemployed and/or from low-to-middle income households.

The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) has lobbied against increased regulation of FOBTs, claiming that it would lead to substantial job losses in the betting sector. However, the ABB does not take account of the overall impact of a shift in consumer spending towards FOBTs and away from other goods and services. Each pound which a consumer spends on FOBTs (net of winnings) is by definition a pound which is not spent elsewhere in the economy. In a report last year on the economic impact of FOBTs, Landman Economics estimated the amount of employment supported by a certain quantity of expenditure on FOBTs compared with the employment supported by the same quantity of consumer expenditure on other goods and services in the economy. Because expenditure on FOBTs supports relatively little employment compared with consumer expenditure elsewhere in the economy, the analysis concluded that £1bn of “average” consumer expenditure supports around 21,000 jobs across the UK as a whole, whereas £1bn of expenditure on FOBTs supports only 4,500 jobs in the UK gambling sector. This implies that, other things being equal, an increase of £1bn in consumer spending on FOBTs destroys over 16,000 jobs in the UK.

Our analysis suggests that if current rates of growth of FOBT expenditure are maintained:

  • Gross industry revenues from FOBTs will double in real terms between 2015/16 and 2025/26, resulting in a gain of around 5,000 jobs for the gambling sector by 2025/26 but a reduction of around 25,000 jobs for the economy as a whole.

  • By 2025/26, the total annual wage bill in areas where FOBTs are established will be around £700 million lower (in today’s prices) than if FOBT use remained at its 2015 level.

  • tax receipts will also be around £120 million per year less due to the expansion of FOBTs. Revenue from Machine Games Duty is forecast to increase by around £280 million but this is more than offset by reduced receipts from income tax and National Insurance contributions (due to lower employment) and reduced VAT receipts (due to lower consumer spending on other goods and services).

There is also a clear link between FOBTs and deprivation. A mapping analysis by Geofutures for the CFG in 2014 found that 34 percent of all betting shops are located in the most deprived quartile compared to only 16 percent in the least deprived quartile. This was backed up by further analysis by Landman Economics of data from the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) for England showing that the most deprived areas in England contain substantially more betting shops than the least deprived areas. In contrast, research commissioned from the Local Data Company by the ABB, which claimed "to refute claims that bookies prey on the poor", was found to be flawed because it used data on betting shop location and deprivation for urban areas only, rather than a full nation-wide dataset.

The most important and concerning finding from our report is that increases in spending on FOBTs are likely to destroy jobs in the UK economy rather than creating them.