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Operators Accused of Going Around the FOBT Stake Cut Rules with New High-Stake Roulette Games

- April 8, 2019 By Oliver Young -

The rules over the stake cut on fixed-odds betting terminals took effect on 1st of April, 2019, and it seems like the operators have found new games to bypass those rules. Namely, two online operators have been accused of bypassing the rule with the roulette-style games where high stakes are still possible.

Paddy Power and Betfred accused of bypassing the FOBTs stake cut rules introducing new roulette-style games in their offerings, which allow for high stakes.

Paddy Power and Betfred accused of bypassing the FOBTs stake cut rules introducing new roulette-style games in their offerings, which allow for high stakes.

New High Stakes Roulette-Style Games

Two major online operators in the UK has been accused of finding new high stakes games to offer players which undermine the new rules. The stakes cuts on FOBTs from £100 to £2 took effect from Monday, 1st, and not long after, the UK Gambling Commission warned operators against any attempts to bypass these rules. The rules were recommended by the UKGC last year and were approved by the government as part of the solution and fight against gambling-related harms.

Soon after the stake cut took effect, many leading operators have started complaining about their revenue loss and the things they need to do in order to stay alive in the business. William Hill tried to get lower rents but has also soon announced of launching a new game that could potentially bypass the rules.

However, Betfred and Paddy Power have found a way to undermine the rules by offering players roulette-style games that allow high stakes. Betfred crossed the limit, offering players a game that would allow bets of up to £500, called Virtual Cycling. The game the operator offered involved 2 cyclists that appear on the screen and race on a track with numbers from 1 to 36 on it. When one cyclist catches the other, the number they stand on is the winning one. As you know, 1 to 36 are the numbers that are present on a standard roulette wheel, but to add more to the situation, players could place bets on even, odd numbers and even colours, columns and rows. A classic roulette-style game, however, a spokesman for Betfred explained in their defence that the game is not a machine, because bets are handed over the counter to the stuff where the stuff interacts with the players, so these were over-the-counter bets.

Paddy Power offered players games where the maximum stake was £100 and also involved placing bets on numbers between 1 and 36. In defence, a spokesman for Paddy Power explained that the game was introduced as a part of a trial in several of their shops, which ceased within 24 hours. The spokesman said that the game will not actually be launched across their offerings.

Condemnation from Critics and Anti-Gambling Campaigners

Tracey Crouch, the former Sports Minister and the leader in anti-gambling campaigning, who resigned from her position over the delay in the stake cut application, said that the attempts to circumvent the stake cuts now would be morally irresponsible.

Tom Watson, Labour’s Deputy Leader, branded these roulette-style games are FOBTs by the back door, saying that operators haven’t learned any lessons, and haven’t learned that these games are causing a terrible social harm, warning them that if they don’t reform themselves, the government will make sure to do it for them.

The current Sports Minister Mims Davies said that operators should respect both the spirit and the letter of the change in FOBTs stake cut since they were cut to protect those vulnerable from gambling-related harm. Stating that they are watching them, Davies added that if they see evidence of harm, they will not hesitate to act.

Finally, the UK Gambling Commission’s Executive Director Helen Venn stated that they are investigating these products. Being aware that some may attempt to bend the rules, the UKGC has been monitoring them closely, so where they see operators failing to act responsibly, they will take action.

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