BBPA calls for higher stakes on fruit machines as UK set to cap fixed odds betting terminals at £2

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has called on the government to allow for higher stakes on gaming machines in a bid to combat declining beer sales.

The BBPA wants to see a “modest rise” in stakes on fruit machines to combat declining beers sales (Photo: Amphoto/iStock).

The BBPA has asked for “a modest rise in stakes and prizes for pub machines”, in a statement released on 22 January, shortly after the government announced it was likely to set a cap on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT) of £2.

The government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has just completed a consultation on proposals to cut the maximum bet on FOTBs to £2. Currently, gaming machines allow gamblers to place bets of up to £100 every 20 seconds, to between £50 and £2.

Campaigners say FOBTs are the “crack cocaine” of gaming and have called for a action, saying they disproportionately target gambling addicts, reports the Financial Times.

An official for the DCMS said that no formal agreement has been reached, but that a £2 cap was likely to be enforced.

Whilst fruit machines have been visible as a form of gaming machines in pubs for many years, their relatively low stake and low return makes them less of a threat than Fixed Odds Betting Terminals which allow users to place much higher bets.

The BBPA, whose members account for 50% of Britain’s 50,000 pubs, is calling on a stake rise to save the UK’s declining pub sector.

UK beer sales have fallen by their biggest margin in five years, according to a report the industry body released in November 2017.

Sales in pubs, bars and restaurants have fallen by 3.6% in the three months to the end of September compared to the same period in 2016; the equivalent of 35 million fewer pints.

The BBPA claims that fruit machines do not pose a threat or target people with gambling addictions, so there should be no issue with raising the stakes, which the report said “do not meet the expectations of the consumer.”

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “The amusement machine offer in pubs needs to be able to develop to meet the expectations of the consumer and form part of a low stake, low prize entertainment offer in a pub. Our proposals to increase both stake and prize should help keep pub amusement machines competitive.

“Any gaming machine use in pubs is overseen by the licensee/manager and their team, and pubs represent, much as they do for drinking, a socially responsible environment. The BBPA already has a long-established code of practice to ensure machines are operated responsibly.

“Operating costs for pubs are under pressure from high beer duty, business rates, the apprenticeship levy, and mandatory auto-enrolment pensions for employees. Income from amusement machines can be vitally important in keeping many pubs viable, and an increase in prize for Category C machines will enable pubs to invest in the business and keep an important social resource viable.”

The DCMS has been approached for comment.

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