A significant decrease
With the UK government cutting the max stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in 2019, police callouts to betting stores dropped 38% on the year.
Police visited betting shops 1,803 times in 2019, compared to 2,907 visits the previous year.
This change came into effect on April 1, 2019, dropping the max stake per bet from £100 ($125) down to £2 ($2.51). Police visited betting shops 1,803 times in 2019, compared to 2,907 visits the previous year.
Many of the police calls were made in response to players getting violent after they lost money playing FOBTs. First reported by The Guardian after obtaining the data through Freedom of Information laws, the data does not include figures from one unnamed betting store operator as it did not use the correct reporting methodology.
A side benefit
The government tried to delay cutting the max stake, leading to the resignation of Sports Minister Tracey Crouch in November 2018.
Speaking to The Guardian about the police callout figures, Crouch said that this drop illustrates how store staff and gamblers now have better protection. The reduction in callouts will save taxpayers money, as police will be able to focus on other issues.
it would have an indirect impact too”
While acknowledging that the main reason for the stake reduction was to protect individual gamblers from addiction issues, she also spoke about the ancillary consequences of the change.
Crouch said: “I knew from the number of police officers and bookmaker employees who contacted me telling tales of violence towards them and the machines that it would have an indirect impact too.”
Not the sole reason
The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) did state that the FOBT stake cut wasn’t the only reason for the drop in police callouts. The gambling regulator pointed toward better relationships between the police and betting stores, as well as the decreasing numbers of open betting stores and a decline in overall levels of crime.
A longtime campaigner for FOBT reform, Labor MP Carolyn Harris said the data suggests that FOBTs had been “driving violence and crime in bookmakers and local communities.”
Impact of the FOBT stake change
FOBTs were a major source of income for the betting store operators before the stakes change. William Hill saw a 40% drop in FOBT revenue shortly after the measure came into place.
Predictably, customer spending on FOBTs has dropped significantly since the stake drop took effect. On the back of the success of the FOBT measures, some politicians in the UK have been pushing for a max stake of £2 ($2.51) to be implemented for online casino games.