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UK bookmakers in the clear after report on FOBTs is dismissed

ABB Malcolm George
The chief executive of the ABB, Malcolm George.

UK bookmakers are rejoicing as the report which called for reduced maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) has been dismissed.

Earlier this year the All-Party Parliamentary Group prepared a report on FOBTs and submitted it as a wider government regulatory review of the machines.

It recommended the government reduce the maximum stakes of the machines from £100 to £2. It also called for a reduction in the number of FOBTs available, which is currently four per shop.

Following the report, the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) called for “an urgent inquiry” into the report since its funding was made up of organisations which benefited from fewer FOBTs. These includes arcades, land-based casinos, pubs and clubs and manufacturers of other gaming devices these venues also offer.

The ABB slammed the cross-party group as a “kangaroo court” and a “club of anti-betting shop MPs, funded by amusement arcades and casinos with commercial interest in attacking betting shops.”

Last week, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Hudson, released the findings of her investigation including a letter to the ABB CEO, Malcolm George. Here she stated the report was guilty of breaching transparency rules four times.

This included failing to disclose that the Parliamentary Group received free secretariat services from a public relations firm, Interel.

Hudson also revealed the Parliamentary Group did not keep a record of attendance, take proper minutes, or add a disclaimer to the report stating it was not an official House of Commons document.

Hudson did say the breaches were “at the less serious end of the spectrum” and that there was “no deliberate attempt to mislead.”

She also said she considers the matter closed since the cross-party group’s chairwoman, Carolyn Harris acknowledged the faults, rectified them and apologised.

The chief executive of the ABB, Malcolm George, was not as quick to let the matter go and has slammed the Parliamentary Group.

“This group of MPs are now revealed as serial offenders for their misleading report about gaming machines in betting shops,” he said.

“The MPs’ report has been exposed as a shambolic, shoddy and one-sided piece of work that has broken a long list of parliamentary rules.”

The report was intended to assist the government’s triennial review of the UK’s gambling industry, but due to a snap election, the review will be delayed until autumn. This was known prior to the government’s inquiry into the report which gave bookies some reprieve.

Bookmakers still slammed the report before it was dismissed saying if the recommendations were acted on up to 20,000 job cuts could incur and up to 50 percent of bookies could be forced shut.

Closures would likely occur as land-based bookies generate about half of their overall profits from the FOBTs installed in their shops around the nation.

Opponents still slam the machines, suggesting they contribute to problem gambling, as well as crime and social problems. Bookies rebut this stating there is no evidence to back up these claims.

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