Stroll down a high street in the UK and you’ll probably find a betting shop with an FOBT in it. Known technically as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, FOBTs have been the subject of much debate in recent years. Indeed, with supporters and critics voicing their opinions in equal measure, the betting terminals have become one of the hottest topics in the UK gambling industry. With so much attention on the games, we’ve decided to put together a comprehensive guide to FOBTs.
Starting with the basics before moving into the reasons these gaming machines have become so important, this guide should tell you everything you need to know about FOBTs. Of course, with so many points to make on either side of the divide, we couldn’t discuss FOBTs without touching on the government’s recent review of the industry. So, before we leave you to go off and explore these games for yourself, we’ll explain what the government’s consultation is about and what the future of FOBTs is likely to be.
Which Companies Make FOBTs and Where Can You Find Them?
Put simply, FOBTs are gaming machines that allow you to place bets on a variety of games. In terms of popularity, roulette is the most popular game you’ll see players betting on. However, the major manufacturers produce terminals capable of offering dozens of classic casino games as well as bespoke betting options. Under the terms set out by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), FOBTs are permitted in the following venues that hold a 1968 or 2005 Act casino operating licence:
- Betting Shops – Maximum of four per shop with a £100 max stake per round and max single payout of £500.
- Racetracks with Pool Betting – Maximum of four per track with a £100 max stake per round and max single payout of £500.
- Small Casino – Maximum of 80 per casino (subject to a 2/1 machine/table ratio) with a £100 max stake per round and max single payout of £500.
- Large Casino – Maximum of 1500 per casino (subject to a 5/1 machine/table ratio) with a £100 max stake per round and max single payout of £500.
- 1968 Casino Act Licence Holder – Maximum of 20 per casino with a £100 max stake per round and max single payout of £500.
In practical terms, this means you can find FOBTs in one of the UK’s 9,000+ high street betting shops, including those owned by Coral, Ladbrokes, William Hill, Paddy Power and Betfred. Additionally, horseracing tracks such as Newmarket and Ascot, as well as dog tracks like Belle Vue and Doncaster, can offer FOBTs. Finally, the majority of UK live casinos will offer a selection of betting terminals alongside their table games and slots.
When it comes to the companies behind FOBTs, many of the leading players are based in Austria. Although UK betting brands will have their preferred partners, all games are subject to rigorous third-party testing. Indeed, just as the random number generator (RNG) powering any online casino game is tested by an independent organisation, the same is true for FOBTs. Because of this, any game powered by the following manufacturers will be 100% fair and secure:
- Cashpoint Agentur & IT Service GmbH
- Cyberview Technology
- Evona Electronic Ltd
- Gamestec, UK
- Play4Win (WETTPUNKT Ges.m.b.H)
- Revolution Entertainment Systems
- the bet station
- Tipico Deutschland
- VideoBet interactive Betting
- Virtual Sports Games
- Electrocoin, UK
Although roulette tops the list of popular FOBT games, the library of options extends beyond a single game. With maximum bets of £100 per round, players can choose to try their hand at a variety of casino classics, casual games and even sports betting-style showdowns. As a general guide, you’ll find the following gaming options when you ante-up on an FOBT:
Put simply, FOBTs allow you to play a similar selection of games you’ll find online. Indeed, if you scroll through the lobbies of our recommended UK casinos, you’ll find virtually every type of game available on an FOBT. From casino classics to modern innovations, online casinos and live betting terminals share a number of common features.
When it comes to playing FOBTs and getting the most bang for your buck (or pound as the case may be), there aren’t any shortcuts to success. In the same way the games you play online are controlled by an RNG, there is no way to predict the outcome of a game with any degree of accuracy. In fact, as we’ve mentioned, each software supplier and betting operator must ensure its RNG has been tested for security and fairness by a third-party agency. Therefore, in this respect, the results will be just as random as they would be online or in a live casino.
Although there aren’t any sure-fire ways to win every time you play, there are some core betting skills you can use to help reduce your risk of ruin (i.e. going broke). The most important skill you can learn is bankroll management. Now, this tactic has two levels of meaning. In the first instance, bankroll management refers to the overall amount of money you have available to spend. A player that doesn’t have any limit on what they use for betting will often go broke. Because of this, you should set yourself a realistic bankroll.
As you’d expect, “realistic” is a relative term in this sense and the amount you choose for your betting budget will be defined by the amount you can afford. As a general rule, all successful gamblers live by the mantra: “if you can’t afford to lose it, you can’t afford to wager it.” To put it another way, the amount you have in your bankroll should be an amount of money you’re comfortable with losing. If burning through your bankroll won’t affect your living standards or mentality, then it’s an acceptable amount to risk.
On a second level, bankroll management focuses on the amount you spend each time you play. Once you’ve set your overall bankroll, you need to stick within certain limits each time you play. We suggest using around 3% of your bankroll in a single session. For example, if your bankroll is £1,000, you would walk up to an FOBT and put in no more than £30 in (i.e. £1,000 X 0.03 = £30). Given that you have £1,000, anteing up with just £30 might seem a little tight. However, when you consider that variance (i.e. luck) is never predictable, this conservative approach is the best way to stay active and take the rough with the smooth.
So, in summary, there aren’t really any tips or tricks you can use when you’re playing FOBTs. However, if you learn to manage your money like a pro, you’ll not only give yourself the best chance of catching a wave of good luck, but you won’t have to worry about hurting yourself financially.
One of the main reasons FOBTs have become headline news in the UK over the last few years is the amount of money they generate. According to figures from the UKGC, punters wagered £1.82 billion on FOBTs to the year ending September 2016. When you put that figure in context, that’s more than 10% of the £13.8 billion the UK operators handled during the same period. Looking further into the figures, the number of FOBTs on the high street has increased by just 9% since 2009, but the amount staked has gone up by 73%.
Today, around 35,000 people play FOBTs regularly, with the average machine generating £52,887 per year. Based on this, FOBTs currently generate around £5 million for the UK’s leading operators, which suggests they are hugely important to the industry. In fact, since people started calling for changes to the current set-up, various groups have said that any reduction in stakes could harm the UK betting industry. One of the most vocal defenders of FOBTs has been the British Horseracing Association.
“We recognise the strong contribution betting makes to our sport so we are very clear with government that if it were to go to a £2 maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals it would have a significant impact in the short and medium term on British racing,”
BHA chief executive Nick Rust told At the Races in February 2018.
Based on the amount of revenue and interest FOBTs have generated since 2009, various organisations have criticised them. Many mainstream media outlets have often called the betting shop terminals the “crack cocaine” of the gambling world. In real terms, these descriptions are nothing more than sensationalist headlines designed to grab reader’s attention. However, leaving the hyperbole aside, there is clearly a debate to be had regarding the current status of FOBTs. In light of this, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport undertook a review of the machines towards the end of 2017.
After opening up a public inquiry, the government department invited submissions from organisations on both sides of the divide. As you’d expect, supporters and industry operators have defended the current system, while those opposed to gambling as a legal pastime have called for an outright ban on FOBTs. Since receiving the submissions, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has been reviewing the evidence, projecting the potential impact of any changes (both for the industry and tax revenue) and considering what can be done to limit the negative impact of FOBTs.
At this point, an outright ban is highly unlikely. However, what the government is proposing is a reduction in the maximum stake. As we’ve noted, each machine allows players to wager up to £100 per round (which takes roughly 20 seconds). Under this dynamic, it’s possible to wager £300 per minute. Under the new proposals, it’s been suggested that the maximum stake should be reduced to £2. Although this would have a dramatic impact on the amount a player could bet in a single session, the speed of the games would still be such that they could still get through a healthy amount per hour.
Anytime change is imposed on anyone or anything, there is a certain amount of backlash, and things won’t be any different when it comes to FOBTs. However, if the industry is going to continue offering these betting machines without an intense level of backlash from the general public, it seems a compromise is necessary.
The biggest arguments against FOBTs are that they are addictive and financially destructive. However, these are criticisms that can be levelled at any gambling venture. Because you never how the results are going to flow, it’s impossible to predict whether results are going to go your way or not. On one level, this creates an adrenaline rush of anticipation that makes things exciting and entertaining. However, on the flipside, it also creates a situation where you always feel like you’re chasing a result. When you’re losing, you always have that hope things will turn around with just one more bet. When you’re winning, you always want to win more. This combination of emotions keeps people playing and the danger with this is that you can lose more than you can afford.
However, as we’ve said earlier in this piece, bankroll management is the key to overcoming these issues. Yes, you will need to learn how to control your emotions and stick to your game plan in the heat of the moment. This isn’t easy, but it is achievable. In fact, if you actually look at the software installed on an FOBT, you’ll notice that your balance is always available. On top of this, there is a session timer. These features allow you to keep track of what you’re doing and, therefore, stick to your limits.
Overall, there’s no doubt FOBTs can be addictive, but there isn’t any evidence to suggest they can be more or less addictive than other forms of gambling. If you treat them as a way to have some fun and don’t go beyond your limits, FOBTs can be just as enthralling as any live or online casino game.