Betting companies to be forced to ask customers to set time and spend limits

Out-Law News | 03 Mar 2014 | 5:35 pm | 2 min. read

Gambling operators will be forced to require customers to "preset" the amount of money and time they wish to spend on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), a UK government minister has announced.

Culture secretary Maria Miller said new player protections should be made mandatory and that gambling operators in Great Britain should lose their licence if they fail to adhere to put them in place.

Miller has asked the Gambling Commission to help set appropriate limits on the time and money gamblers using FOBTs can set before warning notices appear. The initiative has been prompted by the government's intention to tackle what she said is the "serious issue" of problem gambling. FOBTs are high stakes rapid play gaming machines and are commonly found in high street betting shops.

Last week the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) introduced a new code on responsible gambling (24-page / 2.14MB PDF) which its members have voluntarily signed up to. Under the code, gambling operators will use new technology in their gaming machines to display reminders to customers when they have spent £250, and every £250 thereafter. Mandatory time-based reminders will also pop up on customers' screens every half an hour.

Miller said she welcomed the measures introduced by the ABB but said that the "voluntary measures are not enough".

"Given the serious concerns about such terminals, I have decided player protections must be mandatory," Miller said in comments that originally appeared in the Sunday Times. "I have asked the Gambling Commission to make sure this happens. In future, protection measures will form part of an operator's licence conditions, and bookmakers will have to accept them or not be able to trade."

"I want player protection to be stronger and enforceable. So I am asking the Gambling Commission if the £250 limit before you see a pop-up message is too high and whether we should reduce it. Half an hour seems a long time to spend playing such a machine, so I am asking if we should shorten the time before an alert appears. We need to be tougher and insist players must preset the maximum amount of money they intend to spend or the time they intend to play for," she said.

The Gambling Commission told Out-Law.com that a consultation it launched on changes to gambling operators' licensing conditions last autumn had now closed and that any further changes to those conditions would require separate consultation.

In addition to changes to the licensing regime gambling companies in Great Britain are subject to, Miller also said she questioned whether "the seemingly constant gambling adverts on television are appropriate". She said that she had asked the Advertising Standards Authority to "review the codes for gambling advertising to see whether change is needed".

Miller said she wants the gambling industry to be "successful" but that that success must exist alongside protection against problem gambling.

"The gambling industry is an important part of our economy, but growth cannot be at any cost, and this is about finding the right balance," the Culture Secretary said. "I call on the sector to put social responsibility at the heart of their businesses and ensure growth comes from customers who are fully in control of their gambling." that if patients mistrust, or are concerned about the security of their data, or have concerns about how this data will be used, that would actually, potentially, irrevocably damage that fabric of trust when a patient walks into a GP surgery," Nagpaul said. "And that may actually have other consequences around confidence in the way the NHS records data, it may actually result in patients not attending their GP surgery at all for fear of what may happen to their records or data or if they do attend actually be inhibited in being totally open about some things and maybe not about others."