UKGC to Investigate Back Door FOBTs Inside Betfred and Paddy Power Stores

Even as new restrictions came into force on April 1, fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) have attracted yet more negative press.

Betfred Virtual Cycling FOBT alternative

Virtual Cycling is under review by the UKGC after critics brand Betfred’s game an alternative to FOBTs. (Image: Wikimedia/EdwardX)

Despite warnings from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) not to ignore FOBT changes, certain bookmakers are now under investigation.

Just 48 hours after bookmakers were obligated to reduce FOBT betting limits from £100 to £2, the UKGC is reviewing the status of a new product.

Virtual Cycling Offers Alternative to FOBTs

Launched by Betfred and Paddy Power, Virtual Cycling allows customers to bet on the outcome of a virtual cycle race.

Featuring what looks like a roulette board, the game asks players to choose when a rider will be overtaken. Each section of the track corresponds to a certain number, something that gives it a passing resembles to roulette.

Under current conditions, punters can stake up to £500 per race but Betfred believes an integral component means it doesn’t fall foul of FOBT laws.

“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,” a spokesperson for Betfred told The Guardian.

In changing the laws regarding live betting terminals, the government wanted to reduce the risk of problem gambling. With advocates for change touting the high-octane nature of FOBTs as a cause of financial harm, the maximum betting limits were reduced on April 1.

Knockoff FOBTs Won’t be Tolerated

However, with Virtual Cycling offering what former sports minister Tracey Crouch called “back door” tricks, the UKGC has been forced to step in.

“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,” UKGC executive director Helen Venn said in a press statement.

While Betfred and Paddy Power have been looking for live alternatives to FOBTs, other operators have expanded their digital interests.

According to inside reports, Ladbrokes Coral staff have been told to encourage online sign ups. In a similar vein, William Hill recently completed its $242 million takeover of Mr Green to help make its online portfolio more profitable.

Whether the UKGC investigation leads to disciplinary action will depend on how it views the live betting element of Virtual Cycling. However, what’s clear is that operators are going to explore every option in an effort to offset any lost FOBT revenue.

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