UK MPs Blasted for Using Biased Research in Gambling Machines Review

British ministers have faced heavy criticism for supposedly using a biased report on the impact of a massive crackdown on the highly controversial fixed-odds betting terminals located in betting shops across the UK, The Times reported earlier today.

The Fixed Odds Betting Terminals All-Party Parliamentary Group, which includes 20 British MPs, has claimed that the government might have used a report that contained exaggerated forecasts about the future impact of a significant reduction of the maximum stake FOBTs accept. The controversial gaming devices currently allow players to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds.

The UK government confirmed last fall that it would launch a crackdown into the gambling industry’s FOBTs sector by cutting the maximum stake. MPs then launched a 12-week consultation period, during which they would try to collect and review as much information as possible on the impact of the looming clampdown on all involved parties.

FOBTs opponents have been asking for a reduction of the maximum stake allowed to £2. That option is among those currently considered by MPs. However, bookmakers have argued that a cut of this scope would have a detrimental impact on their retail businesses and profitability as well as on the industry, as a whole.

A report commissioned by the Association of British Bookmakers and compiled by research firm KPMG has stated that the industry could collectively lose nearly £640 million as a result from a cut of the maximum stake to £2.

MPs Might Be Using Biased Report

The anti-FOBTs parliamentary group has voiced concerns that MPs might have used biased industry-commissioned report that does not present a reliable forecast on the impact a massive FOBTs will have on the gambling industry.

Last October, the government published its own estimates, according to which, a cut to £2 would indeed cost bookmakers £640 million. Facing criticism from the FOBTs opponents, MPs have denied that KPMG’s report had influenced their own analysis.

Earlier this month the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) published its own study on the FOBTs matter. According to that separate research, the impact from a crackdown on the machines would be around 50% lower than what KPMG had estimated. CEBR has found that a reduction of the maximum FOBTs stake would cost the industry around £335 million.

The Association of British Bookmakers has responded to that separate report by saying that the CEBR did not have access to British betting shops’ financial data, which makes its report unreliable. On the other hand, both KPMG and the Treasury had full access to that information, the association has added in a recent statement on the matter, which, it believes, vouches for the adequacy of the KPMG’s report.

The UK government announced last October that it would be looking into three options for a cut in FOBTs’ maximum stake. It may be reduced to £50, £20, or £2. The latter two have been the most broadly discussed over the past several months, but it is all up to the findings of MPs during the ongoing consultation period to determine the best possible outcome.

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