In early 2019, the government announced much sought after restrictions on the amount of money people could spend per spin on FOBT machines in bookmakers. As soon as this was announced, bookmakers warned of major changes to the gambling industry. The new ruling took the stake limit down from £100 per spin to just £2, a move that was said to be too much by those offering these machines to their players.
But what was it that actually happened in 2019, and what kind of impact are we looking at as we move into 2020?
The major change was the number of shops that closed. All bookmakers announced shop closures in certain areas to combat the money they were going to lose from the stake reduction being in place. The reason we have seen so many shop closures has been due to the number of new shops that were specifically opened to offer players the chance to play on FOBT machines.
These shops weren’t actually opened to offer sports betting, which should be their primary focus, and instead were full of players using the machines to play roulette and other games, with the odd recreational punter placing bets on sports such as horse racing and football.
At the time, this led to town centres being littered with new betting shops, instead of three shops, one for each bookmaker, some places had two and three branches of the same bookmaker in their town. This led to anywhere from six to ten bookmakers in a town, something that simply isn’t viable to keep.
As well as telling us that stores would be closing as a result of the limits, bookmakers also told us that they would have to revise the way they approached sports betting and gaming services that they offered. The expectation here was that we would see a reduction in the number of concessions or special offers for punters, and these would be seen both in shops and online.
The only real move we have seen in 2019 is a cut back on the ‘best odds guaranteed’ horse racing offer. No bookmaker has taken this away, but many have narrowed the gap this is on offer for, taking it away from bets placed the night before racing, and in some instances early in the morning.
This is an effect of the FOBT restrictions that online customers have felt, though it must not solely be put down to the FOBT changes. The bookmakers have probably wanted to get rid of this offer for a while, but never found a way of doing so without upsetting too many customers as they didn’t have a reason.
With the FOBT restrictions given them the reason to do it, bookmakers have decided to take some aspects of the offer away because they had the opportunity to.
There is some good news for punters coming out at the moment. Bookmakers are slowly revealing their estimated results for the year of 2019 and while they won’t be confirmed until later in the year, things are looking positive for them.
Many are reporting profits higher than expected, with a smaller than expected fall in terms of shop turnover. The bookies were right to be cautious and sound alarm bells when the FOBT stake limit was introduced, but so far it appears that things have not been as bad as they were expecting.
Had these results come out and shown things were worse than expected, or even in line then 2020 would more than likely have looked very different. With this good news, it is expected that bookmakers won’t seek to make more cuts either online or in shops, and we should see the kind of offers that we get right now still being available at the end of 2020.
If anything is to change then it will more than likely be the completion of the move to ban ‘best odds guaranteed’ from prices taken the night before a race, something that most bookmakers have implemented but not all just yet.
Away from that, things such as regular free spin bonuses for casino players, acca offers for football punters and many more things all look set to stay for now, which is good news.
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