UK FOBTs to Get New Player Protection Software

FOBTs to get problem gambling monitors.

UK betting shops to monitor problem gambling with new FOBT technology. (Image: thesundaytimes.co.uk/Tom Stockill)

Fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in the UK will soon include features designed to curb problem gambling.

Since FOBTs became a permanent feature of betting shops across the UK, anti-online gambling lobbyists have continually spoken out against them.

Likening them to drugs for those prone to problem gambling, opponents of the machine have campaigned to outlaw them on the high street.

Until now the betting industry has held its position and the government has been reluctant call for an outright ban on them.

However, with the end of the year approaching and the prospect of further issues in 2016, betting operators have made a move to tackle the issue of problem gambling.

New Steps to Protect Players

Announced earlier this week by the Association of British Bookmakers, the new initiative will see special software installed on FOBTs across the country.

Falling under the remit of the Player Awareness Systems initiative (a coalition between Gala Coral, Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, and William Hill), the new software will be able to monitor a player’s activity and intervene if it sense a pattern of problem behaviours.

The initiative is a result of research conducted by the Responsible Gambling Trust in 2014. After monitoring the activities of hundreds of gamblers, researchers determined that it was possible to distinguish between those who were in control of their actions and those who had problem gambling habits.

Using this research as a basis, software developers have been able to create a program capable of tracking and recording the activity of a player when they are logged into the system.

Analysing the results in real time, the software can then pick out potential problem gamblers and send them a message (via email or text) alerting them to the danger of their behaviour.

In addition to the software monitoring player habits, betting shop assistance will also be given licence to intervene if they believe a customer is playing beyond their means.

Bookmakers want to Reduce Potential Harm

Despite the new system potentially reducing player activity on FOBTs, the four members of the Player Awareness Systems initiative are all behind it.

In fact, even though 55% of all betting shop revenue now comes from FOBTs, Ladbrokes’ CEO Jim Mullen explained that any measures designed to “reduce potential harm” are a welcome addition to the industry.

The only problem with the proposed software is that it requires a player to be logged into the system in order to be effective. Only once it recognises a player can it effectively track their activity and make a determination on their habits.

Regardless of this potential pitfall, the British Bookmakers Association has said that all of its members have signed up to the scheme and players can expect the software to be rolled out across the UK in the coming months.

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