Two of the UK’s most famous bookmakers have pulled controversial games from their fixed-odds betting terminals, after received warnings from the Gambling Commission.
The maximum stake on fixed-odds betting machines was recently cut from £100 to £2 in order to protect vulnerable gamblers. The pair of bookmakers have been accused of trying to circumvent the rules with ‘roulette style’ games that let players bet up to £500 at a time.
Betfred’s game shows a cycling track divided into numbers from 1 to 36 (similar to a roulette wheel). Two cyclists move around the track until the rear cyclist catches up with the leader, at which point whichever number was on the track underneath them is the winner. Similar to traditional roulette, players could place multiple bets on numbers, colours, rows and columns – allowing them to greatly exceed to £2 limit.
Paddy Power’s game also mimicked a roulette wheel and allowed players to bet up to £100 – the maximum level allowed before the rule change.
Both companies have pulled the games with no plans to reintroduce them.
Betfred agreed to pull their game but expressed a desire for further talks with the Gambling Commission. Paddy Power said that their game was part of a limited trial. A spokesman from Paddy Power said: “This game was introduced as part of a short trial in a selection of shops. The trial was ceased within 24 hours of commencement and this product will not be launched across our estate.”
Both companies were heavily criticised for their actions ahead of the Gambling Commission’s intervention. Shadow culture minister Tom Watson called them “FOBTs through the back door”, while MP Tracey Crouch said that any attempt to circumvent the £2 maximum stake “would be morally irresponsible”.
In a statement Richard Watson, executive director for enforcement at the Gambling Commission, said: “We have been absolutely clear with operators about our expectations to act responsibly following the stake cut implementation this week.”
“We have told operators to take down new products which undermine the changes, and we will investigate any other products that are not within the spirit and intention of the new rules.”
He also said that a third, unnamed betting firm had plans to launch a similar game, but had been warned against doing so.