Paul Darling OBE Defends FOBTs and Urges Bookmakers to do the Same

Paul Darling attacks FOBT critics.

Paul Darling OBE has hit out at FOBT critics and urged bookmakers to act as one against “wilful deception.” (Image: abb.uk.com)

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) were in the spotlight again recently after the chairman of the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) urged operators to fight back against attacks on the industry.

Speaking at the annual general meeting of the ABB on March 14, Paul Darling OBE, the chairman of the ABB, suggested that the mainstream media outlets in the UK are unfairly demonising FOBTs and bookmakers need to unite over the issue.

Betting machines, which are offered by every major betting shop in the UK, are currently generating around £1.7 billion each year in revenue, but they have also generated a slew of salacious headlines during that timeframe.

Rage Against the Machines

From the BBC and the Daily Mail to organisations such as Stop the FOBTs, various outlets have rallied against the machines in recent years. However, during his speech, Darling suggested that many of the accusations are either highly exaggerated or outright lies.

“No longer is there any pretence of reliance on objective accurate information. I say that many of those who come out with such misrepresentations should know better. It is our job to get the debate back to the evidence and I pledge that the ABB, whilst I am the Chairman, will do all that it can to achieve that,” said Darling.

Over the last 12 months there has been a clear movement by the betting industry to curb some of issues raised by those against the machines. Indeed, back in November 2015, the ABB launched a new initiative to roll out special problem gambling software across the UK.

Created and disseminated in partnership with the Player Awareness Systems initiative (a coalition between Gala Coral, Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, and William Hill), the new software allows FOBTs to automatically monitor a player’s activity and intervene if it senses a pattern of problem behaviours.

Essentially, when a player is logged into their account, the FOBT will be able to track the time they’ve spent playing, as well as any unusual betting patterns, and urge the player to stop playing via emails and text messages. 

Review, Unite and Improve

This initiative was the result of a study by the Responsible Gaming Trust and it’s this kind of reciprocal relationship with external bodies that Darling believes can guide the betting industry and placate the naysayers.

“We have the triennial review coming up. My promise is that the ABB will use the evidence objectively and accept where it goes. My plea is to look at the evidence with an open mind and without preconceived prejudice,” Darling went on to say.

There’s no doubt that the issue of FOBTs is a politically charged topic. So far the government appears to be on the side of betting operators, providing they are able to show continued efforts to protect consumers.

However, with more media attacks likely throughout 2016, Darling believes the only way for the betting industry to maintain its current position is to “act as one.”

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