UK news sources have this weekend reported, that highstreet bookmakers are likely to face their ‘nightmare scenario’ as the government will move to impose a £2 limit on FOBTs wagering levels.
On Tuesday, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will finish its 12-week consultation period relating to the government’s pending triennial industry review, focusing on FOBTS wagering and sector advertising standards.
The Sunday Times reports, that the government has received an overwhelming response to slash FOBTs wagering to a £2 limit per stake.
Furthermore, MP Matt Hancock the government’s new Secretary of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, is reported to have personally sanctioned the drastic machine wagering reduction.
Appointed as new DCMS leader this January, following PM Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle. Hancock was viewed positively by a number of betting stakeholders, stating that the new DCMS secretary was pro-business and had an established relationship with the UK Racing sector.
However, it appears that Hancock will do no favours for the betting sector, as news sources report that the secretary views FOBTs as a ’social blight’.
The review of FOBTs wagering levels, has become a high-stakes political battle for all UK betting stakeholders.
Throughout 2017, betting’s ‘Big 4’ retail bookmakers (Ladbrokes, Coral, Betfred and William Hill) have called for the government to consider all industry implications should machine wagering be reduced below £20.
FTSE bookmaker Ladbrokes Coral Plc, holds the highest exposure for any reduction placed on FOBTs.
Group CEO Jim Mullen, has previously warned the government that a reduction below £20, would wipe-out Ladbrokes and Coral’s combined London retail betting portfolio, putting 5000 jobs at risk of termination.
Furthermore, Ladbrokes Coral is entering the final stages of an approved takeover approach by GVC Holdings, who have placed ‘contingency provisions’ on its capped deal of £4 billion, should the government rule favourably on FOBTs wagering.
The FOBTs debate dominated the betting industry’s agenda and context in 2017. The majority of Industry analysts have predicted that a ‘drastic cut’ lead to the next wave of sector-wide consolidation and M&A activity for betting stakeholders.
Following months of speculation, attached to the governments delayed triennial industry review, betting leadership will likely want a swift delivery of DCMS final judgement… allowing for bookmakers to deal with the reality of its FOBTs nightmare.