Scotland is becoming an interesting new battleground between gamblers, the law and elected officials.
At the center of the controversy are popular gaming devices called Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, a phrase which has been nicely shortened to FOBTs.
These devices offer digital versions of poker, blackjack, roulette and other favorite casino table games. FBOTs are placed at betting shops country-wide, and generally seem popular – they can offer a fun touch-screen experience of well-known and entertaining games, and can also present a decent payoff if things go well.
A Sunday Mail investigation showed that in 2014, players spent more than £4 billion on FBOTs.
However, Michael Matheson, the country’s new Cabinet Secretary for Justice, has publicly expressed concerns about the proliferation of these in Scotland, and has been working with law enforcement and other politicians to limit further installation of FBOTs or the creation of new betting locations.
He’s somewhat limited to some degree in what he can accomplish – the law permits up to four per FBOTs per betting shop. However, some adjacent shops put their authorize machines in close proximity to each other, making this cluster very convenient for players.
One compromise position that some authorities have been putting together is to limit spins to a maximum of £2 at a time. This could prevent larger, faster losses especially since some machines offer a maximum bet of £100. This position is being put forward by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, which includes leaders from the Scottish Labour Party and other political blocs.
Other efforts are taking place to limit new FBOTs, but this doesn’t be affecting the ones already in the country which are operating legally.
Similar discussions over what defines a reasonable limitation for FOBTs are taking place in Northern Ireland, while the Republic of Ireland has banned them.