North's bookmakers to cut maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals
BOOKMAKERS in Northern Ireland have agreed to cut the maximum stake on addictive fixed odds betting terminals.
The Northern Ireland Turf Guardians' Association (NITGA), which includes leading bookmakers Toals and McLean's, has announced its members will slash the stake from £100 to £2 in April.
Sean Graham bookmakers is not part of the NITGA, but a spokesman said it is "exploring how we can implement the reduced stake on a voluntary basis".
Although the British government has announced that the maximum stake on the terminals will be cut from to £2 in April, the mandatory change will not apply to the north because the issue is a devolved matter.
Under current rules, gamblers can bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on electronic games.
A spokesman on behalf of the NITGA said although the industry in the north "remains overwhelmingly dominated by traditional over-the-counter betting" fixed odds terminals have been in operation for the past 15 years.
He said although the new law will not apply to the north, the NITGA is "calling on all bookmakers to voluntarily implement the £2 maximum stake from 1 April 2019".
"We have been consulting with our membership over the past number of months and operators, including A McLean Bookmakers, Toals Bookmakers, Ladbrokes Coral, William Hill and Paddy Power have confirmed that FOBTs within their betting shops will align with the £2 maximum stake," he said.
"We are aware that other operators are in the process of exploring how they too can implement the reduced stake and we expect all bookmakers will adopt the £2 limit."
Campaigners have argued that the machines allow players to lose money too quickly, leading to addiction issues.
PUP councillor John Kyle has been campaigning for more support for people struggling with a gambling addiction.
"Reducing the stake from £100 to £2 largely removes the very addictive element of these machines," he said.
"They are generally seen as the most addictive form of gambling. They have this toxic mix of rapid speed gambling combined with very high stakes.
"This is good news for the community here and for families who have members with a gambling addiction."
Public policy charity CARE yesterday said the announcement was a positive step.
The charity's Northern Ireland policy officer Mark Baillie said fixed odds terminals "cause genuine social devastation and the toxic combination they offer of high speed play and a high maximum stake mean punters can lose thousands far too easily".
"With the British government cutting the stake over there, it was vital bookies took action to bring NI into line with the rest of the UK."