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UK’s top gambling lobbies on track for mega merger

FOBT machines at UK betting shops

FOBTs at British bookmakers

Two of Britain’s most prominent gambling lobbies are set to merge in a bid to combat ever-tightening regulations.

The news comes after Ellwood Atfield, a corporate recruitment firm, published adverts for positions with a newly formed gambling body.

Currently dubbed Newco, it claims to be “the largest and most prominent organisation representing the gambling industry”.

The company is seeking a chairman and a chief executive who have a “track record of successfully influencing the political and lobbying process within Westminster, Whitehall and ideally Brussels”.

That would appear to validate rumours of an impending joint-venture between the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) and the Remote Gambling Association (RGA).

Both firms have come under scrutiny amid recent regulatory changes, particularly in the case of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Despite heavy campaigning from the ABB, the government last year vowed to reduce the maximum bet on the electronic gaming machines from £100 to £2.


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That was a big loss for High Street betting shops, which derive more than half of their revenue from FOBTs.

“This illustrates how discredited the ABB in particular are with policymakers and with government, given the way they handled the issue of FOBTs and their failure to acknowledge any kind of problem, which has led to resistance to any meaningful compromise,” said Matt Zarb-Cousin, a noted critic of fixed-odds terminals.

“Ultimately, the £2 stake was enacted, their worst-case scenario, so it’s no surprise they’re looking for a new body to lead on this.”

The new bet limits are scheduled to come into effect on April 1 this year, after which the focus is expected to shift to the remote sector.

Some commentators are worried the reduced maximums on FOBTs could drive more punters to online casinos and betting sites, where there are far fewer restrictions.

Despite a marked increase in activity from the disciplinary arm of the UK Gambling Commission, the online gaming and wagering industry is still dogged by concerns over problem gambling, underage betting and money laundering.

The industry regulator dished out around £28 million in fines last year – more than five times the £5.2 million served in 2016.

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