CFFG breaks down bookies threaten to cancel sponsorship if FOBTs cut to £2 a spin

Posted On: 
7th March 2018

CFFG responds to William Hill spokesman's in 'car crash' interview after bookies threaten to cancel sponsorship if fixed odds betting terminals​ (FOBTs) cut to £2 a spin.

The bookies are using every opportunity to peddle “worst case scenario” predictions of the consequences of a cut to £2, based on an analysis by KPMG that’s already been discredited by Paddy Power, a bookie that operates FOBTs.
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Last weekend spawned the bookmakers’ latest attempt to convince the public and the Government that their addictive £100 a spin Fixed Odds Betting Terminals shouldn’t be brought into line with machines found in all other high street venues, already capped at £2 a spin. Scrabbling around for something, anything, that might elicit public sympathy, the PR gurus at some of the supposedly finest public affairs firms in the land came up with “threatening to withdraw sponsorship for sporting events”.

Let’s boil this down: betting firms have simply said they’ll advertise themselves less if FOBT stakes are cut to £2. Taking this at face value, it wouldn’t make any commercial sense for them to advertise their other products less if they can no longer offer high speed, high stakes roulette on their machines. The threat coming from Ladbrokes Coral is a curious one, given they’re the subject of a buy-out by GVC, an online gambling company that owns Foxy Bingo, and doesn’t currently have any betting shops.

So the kind of marketing decisions being floated by Ladbrokes Coral in anticipation of a cut to £2 a spin won’t even be made by them. Given GVC have even agreed that the final price will depend on the outcome of the gambling review, it’s hardly a credible threat from executives looking to cash in from a takeover, as the Campaign’s Matt Zarb-Cousin argued on Sky News.

William Hill, however, are not the subject of a buy-out, so you’d expect their threats may carry a bit more credibility, right? Wrong. Step forward William Hill’s Director of Corporate Communications, Mr Ciaran O’Brien, who sprang into action on BBC 5 Live on Saturday night. Presumably he was hoping to talk about the “threat” to sport, but was instead taken to task by Stephen Nolan over their lack of policies to prevent problem gambling on FOBTs (you can listen to it here, 6 minutes in).

Ciaran was asked, “At what stage do staff interact with a customer, after they’ve spent how much money?” Ciaran said they “don’t have a specific amount of money, because obviously people who can afford it can afford to gamble at higher levels”. Stephen Nolan then inferred, “So, anyone can walk into your shop and they can spend what, 10 grand, in a few hours and you wouldn’t interact? There’s no threshold at which you’d interact?”

Ciaran then performed a reverse-ferret, claiming that there actually is a threshold but he didn’t want to say what it was because it was in place to prevent money laundering. During the melee, Ciaran let slip that a reduction to £2 a spin would bring about an average loss per hour of £10 (which is more than the minimum wage), while also peddling the spurious line that the average loss per FOBT session is £8. If the latter is true, then why would the former be a problem?

The reality is, it’s not true. Which is why an average FOBT user loses £192 a month, compared to a user of machines capped at £2 a spin, which yield an average loss of £22. The Association of British Bookmakers’ spokesman in Scotland claims problem gambling and level of losses are “unrelated”, yet venue level losses are an indicator of harm. Policy should be determined by the harm associated with each product, and the Health Survey found 43% of FOBT users to be either problem or at risk gamblers.

As with their announcement over the weekend, the bookies are using every opportunity to peddle “worst case scenario” predictions of the consequences of a cut to £2, based on an analysis by KPMG that’s already been discredited by Paddy Power, a bookie that operates FOBTs. The Campaign is confident that if DCMS are making a decision on the basis of the evidence, that £2 will be considered the most appropriate level.