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Gambling regulator to investigate new roulette-style games as fixed odds betting terminal restrictions begin

Gambling regulator to investigate new roulette-style games as fixed odds betting terminal restrictions begin

Regulators are investigating the introduction of new virtual roulette-style games by bookmakers as restrictions on betting machines come into force. A reduction of the stake limit for fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2 was introduced earlier this week to help protect vulnerable players. But one company, Betfred, has launched a new virtual

Regulators are investigating the introduction of new virtual roulette-style games by bookmakers as restrictions on betting machines come into force.

A reduction of the stake limit for fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2 was introduced earlier this week to help protect vulnerable players.

But one company, Betfred, has launched a new virtual cycling game in which customers can bet up to £500.


The Gambling Commission said it was aware of new products and would “not hesitate to step in” if businesses were “failing to act responsibly”.

A spokesman for Betfred said the FOBT restrictions would have a “seismic change” on betting shops, but added that its new products were “not machine games but over-the-counter bets”.

Labour’s deputy leader and shadow secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, Tom Watson, said on Twitter: “The gambling industry appear to be trying to cheat the system with these new roulette-style games. They clearly haven’t learned any lessons – if they won’t reform themselves a Labour government is determined to do it for them.”

The £2 cap on FOBTs was recommended by the Gambling Commission in March last year and is backed by the Government as part of efforts to reduce gambling-related harm.

The new Betfred cycling game appears on a screen in shops, with two cyclists racing on a velodrome track with numbers on it.


When the cyclist at the rear catches the one in front, the number they are on is the winning number.

The numbers are 1 to 36, mirroring those on a roulette wheel, and other bets can be placed on odd or even numbers, colours, rows and columns.

Helen Venn, executive director at the Gambling Commission, said: “We are aware of these products and we are investigating. We have been extremely clear about our expectations in relation to how operators should implement the stake reduction. This is why we have been monitoring developments closely and last week we wrote to operators to remind them of their responsibilities to ensure consumers are protected.

“Where we see businesses failing to act responsibly in response to the stake reduction we will not hesitate to step in.”

Ms Venn said the commission was not just focused on bookmakers and it had “high expectations” of high street and online gambling operators.

A Betfred spokesman: “This week betting shops have gone through a seismic change and many will no longer be viable given the new restrictions on fixed odds betting terminals. In an attempt to grow our over-the-counter business, we’ve therefore introduced a number of special offers on a wide range of sports, and have also revamped our virtual channel with new virtual horse-racing and a new virtual cycling game.

“Bets for all these products need to be filled out on a betting slip and handed over at the counter, where our staff can interact with the customers as they do so. These are not machine games but over-the-counter bets.”


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Mims Davies, minister for sport and civil society, said: “We have been absolutely clear that the gambling industry must put player safety at its heart. We cut FOBT stakes to £2 to protect vulnerable people from gambling-related harm, and operators should respect both the letter and the spirit of that change. We are watching very closely to see how the industry reacts to this measure and will not hesitate to act if we see evidence of harm.”

Marc Etches, chief executive of GambleAware, a charity committed to minimising gambling-related harm, said: “With more than two million people in Britain suffering some level of gambling-related harm, including 340,000 problem gamblers, all gambling operators have a responsibility to protect their customers. All forms of gambling carry risk, so we must make sure we are informing people about these risks and where to go if they need help.”

Mr Etches said help and advice is available from the National Gambling Helpline on 080 8020 133 or online at BeGambleAware.org.

Press Association


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