The row over fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) is coming to an end and the battle appears to be lost. As the battlefield moves inexorably towards online, will CEOs learn the lessons their land-based counterparts failed to grasp? Richard Flint, Ralph Topping and others offer their solutions.
After The Sunday Times published a news story claiming that the UK’s new culture secretary Matt Hancock is in favour of a £2 stake limit on FOBTs, the land-based industry dismissed the report as speculation before claiming that such a move would have a terrible effect on the future of the horse racing industry.
Whether Hancock himself is in favour of slashing the stake limit or not, the battle looks to be lost. The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, Scottish National Party and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are in favour of a £2 limit and as a whole, they represent a majority in the Houses of Parliament.
Furthermore, the DUP hold the balance of power, propping up the minority government of the Conservative Party. And while the latter is a broad church that takes in supportive free market zealots on one side and the anti-gambling religious right on the other, even some of the industry’s strongest supporters are losing patience.
Conservative MP Philip Davies, who has worked in a bookmaker’s shop and is one of the industry’s few cheerleaders, said recently: “Even those who are broadly sympathetic are not going to die in a ditch supporting an unpopular and unfashionable cause.”
While broader social and economic conditions have contributed to the industry’s unpopularity, the industry has not helped itself. A generation of chief executives have either failed to grasp the importance of political lobbying or failed to execute this business critical function.