Four of the UK’s biggest bookmakers are banding together to form a new industry watchdog organization called the Senet Group. The group’s founding members are comprised of some very familiar names including, William Hill, Ladbrokes, Gala Coral and Paddy Power.

The Senet Group’s main thrust is enforcing regulatory standards on the UK’s growing fixed odds betting terminal (FOBT) business. They’re hoping that a little self-policing now can help prevent the government from imposing tougher regulations on the industry down the line.

Some of those self-policing efforts include limiting display and window advertising for high speed electronic roulette wheels; increased enforcement of age restrictions; and a national ad campaign warning of the dangers of problem gambling.

UK FOBT’s have been under fire by anti-gambling groups who say they’re much more addictive than other forms of gambling. These organizations, including the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, are looking at the Senet’s group’s efforts with a weary eye.

In an interview with the UK Guardian, a spokesperson for the group said:

The bookmakers are engaging in desperate conjuring tricks to protect their FOBT market monopoly and, put simply, this is just more smoke and mirrors. If the Gambling Commission was fit for purpose there would not be the need for a watchdog. But for any such watchdog to have credibility it should be neither industry-run nor industry-funded.

Even if the Senet Group gets through to FOBT shops, it could be too little, too late anyways. UK lawmakers are considering a number of new laws and regulatory schemes to reign in the growth of FOBT operations and their ability to advertise their wares.

Regulatory focus on the FOBT industry comes in addition to a harsh new point-of-consumption tax on sports wagering that could take a big bite out of bookmaker’s bottom lines.

Despite the potential attacks on their revenue streams, gaming industry representatives are optimistic about the Senet Group’s chances for instituting real change. A Ladbrokes’ rep told the Guardian:

This is about striking the balance between a player’s right to bet and the visibility of gambling on the high street and on TV. We accept that the balance has not been right in the past.

The Senet Group’s campaigns are set to air in the UK later this year.


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