FOBT Review Could Also Outlaw Online Credit Card Transactions

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GambleAware calls for online credit card deposits to be scrapped as part of the government’s betting industry overhaul. (Image: wikipedia.org)

The government’s fixed odds betting terminal (FOBT) review could be set to have a bigger impact on the industry than many expected following last-minute calls for further changes.

With the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in the final stages of its industry review, GambleAware has called for an end to online credit card deposits. As it stands, British punters can fund their online betting accounts using major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard.

However, with GambleAware suggesting this dynamic encourages people to bet beyond their means, the DCMS may now consider an outright ban.

Calls to Ban Betting on Credit

“Given the well-established principles and evidence in this regard for other sectors of the industry we believe gambling online with a credit card should be prohibited as this significantly increases the risk gamblers will gamble more than they can afford,” reads GambleAware’s letter to culture secretary Matthew Hancock.

Although the letter offers nothing more than a suggestion at this stage, it’s yet another potential stumbling block for British betting companies. On January 22, reports began to surface that the DCMS is preparing to cut FOBT stakes to £2.

In reaction to the news, share prices across the industry fell with Ladbrokes Coral’s trading price dropping by 9 percent and William Hill suffering a 12 percent downswing.

Pushing back against the rumours, a press release from the Association of British Bookmakers warned that a dramatic reduction in FOBT stakes would result in 21,000 job losses. Moreover, according to the government’s own projections, operators could lose as much as £8.5 billion over the next decade if the maximum single stake is slashed from £100 to £2.

Pressure on Industry Operators

With the proverbial Sword of Damocles hanging over the industry, a ban on credit card deposits would likely cause further market fluctuations. To further compound the potential misery, ResPublica has called for a new lobby to support problem gambling organisations.

Taking into account the current shortfall in funding, the thinktank has suggested that 1 percent of the industry’s total profits be spent on research and prevention of gambling issues.

While the latest news won’t be welcomed by industry insiders, the government is under no obligation to follow the guidance offered by the independent organisations. Indeed, with the final decision on FOBT stakes as yet unpublished, the status quo will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

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