After years of debate, today’s the day that major reforms aimed at curbing problem gambling in the UK go into effect. For UK-facing gambling operators with a retail presence, this means that fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), which were once a license to print money, will no longer be the cash cow they once were. What the impact of these reforms will be on bottom lines of companies like William Hill and Ladbrokes is anyone’s guess.

At the core of the new reforms is a measure that limits the maximum stake at FOBTs from £100 ($130 USD) to £2 ($2.60 USD). To say that the new changes will have some impact on UK gambling operators is a bit of an understatement. A report commissioned by the Association of British Bookmakers suggests that as many as 4,500 betting shops would wind up closing as a result of the new rules. Other sources suggest the number could be just half that. Either way, that’s a lot revenue and jobs that will disappear entirely.

An anecdotal incident reported on by the Guardian points out the mindset of some FOBT players and the need to protect them from themselves. One shop manager said, “We’ve lost a bit of business but it’s not been too bad,” he said. “You’d be surprised how some people kick off. They’re saying ‘I lost all my money last week and now you’re stopping me winning it back’. That doesn’t make sense to me. If you lost your money, you lost your money.”

For their part, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) says it’s going to monitor the transition closely warning, “We have been closely monitoring operators’ plans to manage the implementation of the stake cut and we will continue to watch very carefully to ensure that any changes and developments to these products are done with a focus on customer safety. It’s imperative that operators invest in and use data, technology and measures to identify harmful play and can step in to protect players when needed.”


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