Gambling Commission to Investigate Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

United Kingdom

This article was produced by Olswang LLP, which joined with CMS on 1 May 2017.

On 20 February 2008 (the same day that it announced its determination of the 47th Levy scheme), the Government also announced that it had asked the Gambling Commission to look again at FOBTs (fixed odds betting terminals) and Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe is reported to have said that, if evidence emerges that FOBTs are causing harm, the Government will take action.

FOBTs are very profitable machines and, under the Gambling Act, bookmakers are allowed to have up to four of these machines (now classified as B2s) in each of their betting shops. This followed the withdrawal of a prosecution by the Gaming Board (the Gambling Commission's predecessor) which had originally contended that the machines were unlawful under the Gaming Act 1968. There is no set timetable for the Gambling Commission's inquiry although press comment suggests it is expected to report its findings in April 2009.

Given that the Government announced this inquiry on the same day as its determination of the 47th Levy scheme, there has been some speculation that the Government might be using the threat of reducing the number of FOBTs permitted in shops as a stick to encourage the bookmakers to co-operate with racing in agreeing new commercial arrangements to replace the Levy. However, it is likely that any decision by the Government to reduce the number of FOBTs per shop which was not supported by evidence of harm in the Gambling Commission's report would be vulnerable to judicial review.