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FOBTs – a permanent replacement for online gambling?

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Since 2001, FOBTs, or fixed-odds betting terminals, have been making bookmakers across the country a lot of money. With high street betting agents being allowed up to four of the machines, which generally offer roulette, blackjack, slot machine games, poker, and sometimes horse and greyhound racing games, they could potentially pose a great challenge to online gambling sites. The online sites generally offer a much wider range of games (bgo, for example, has literally hundreds of slot games) but many of the most popular games are available either online or at FOBTs. With both forms of gambling offering easy access to a number of games and slots, could FOBTs feasibly bring an end to playing slots online?

Advantages of Online Gaming

Apart from the obvious benefits of playing roulette, blackjack, or slot games in the comfort of your own home, rather than taking a walk through the weather to a betting shop, there are several reasons why online gambling has the edge over fixed odds betting terminals.

At an online casino, you get a much wider choice of games and betting options, and you can qualify for a range of loyalty bonuses and free games which are not available on an FOBT. Online, you also get the option of playing live games (such as poker and roulette) with real dealers and croupiers, for a casino-like experience which a machine just can’t replicate. Other FOBT options, such as slot machine games, also have online alternatives which have more to offer; if you play slots online at bgo, for example, you get a greater range of gaming options, the convenience of an account, and a safe casino environment. Regular users also appreciate the fact that online casinos frequently introduce new slot games. These aren’t aspects of gambling which are offered with an FOBT.

Are FOBTs addictive?

Gambling is an activity which has to endure a lot of negative press, with the addictive potential of the games being one of the main causes of concern. FOBTs are no different to gambling of any form in this respect. The machines have come in for a lot of criticism. They have been compared to ‘crack cocaine’ by commentators who say that the ability to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds, or £300 per minute, is addictive and dangerous. All online gaming sites will, however, ensure their users are fully aware of how to play responsibly.

Money laundering

FOBTs, in great contrast to online gambling sites, do have an incredibly dark side. It has been claimed that these machines have been used by criminals, especially drug dealers, to launder money. In November 2013 the Gambling Commission fined Coral £90,000 for allowing a drug dealer to launder nearly a million pounds at its shops. It described FOBTs as having a “high inherent money-laundering risk”.

Political opposition to FOBTs

In a recent House of Commons debate on January 8th, a move to ban the FOBT machines was voted out, but the Prime Minister told Parliament that he was concerned about FOBTs, and that there would be a review of the legislation which permits them.

Question of Choice

Whilst the similarities in the two forms of gambling are undeniable, it does, however, seem unlikely that FOBTs will become the first choice of gaming connoisseurs. Firstly, many users agree that the gambling experience they offer is inferior to the range of choices available online; and secondly, they may have a limited future, if increasing opposition from politicians, addiction experts, and the Gambling Commission results in them being outlawed, as now seems possible.

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