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FOBT

Fixed-odds betting terminals, or FOBTs, are a controversial subject in the United Kingdom at the moment. Many in the UK have argued that these machines are preying on those who can least afford to gamble, while the owners of betting shops say that these machines are a critical part of their businesses and contain protections to prevent problem gambling.

But what is the deal behind these machines, and how do they differ from standard everyday pokies? Let’s take a closer look at FOBTs and how exactly they work.

What is a FOBT?

A FOBT refers to any electronic machine that allows players to bet on games with fixed odds. These games are often based on roulette, as that popular table game offers odds that are entirely known going into every spin. However, other games are also possible, provided they fit the “fixed odds” designation: simulated horse or dog races are common, as are bingo games.

In the UK, where FOBTs are most commonly found, the machines are closely regulated. The maximum payout for each play on a machine is £500, and betting shops are limited to a maximum of four FOBTs in each retail location.

Why Are FOBTs Controversial?

Many people in the UK believe that FOBTs are particularly addictive, and that their increase in popularity at betting shops has brought more opportunities for problem gambling in low-income neighbourhoods. This led some to call for their removal, while shop owners defended the games as just another option for responsible players to choose from at their outlets.

In 2014, this movement led to calls for the reduction of the maximum stake per spin on FOBTs, with ministers asking for limits of £5 and some local authorities wanting them as low as £2. Others wanted local governments to have the right to limit how many games (if any) could be placed in their jurisdictions, while others called for spending limits on the games.

Ultimately, the most notable government action came down on the side of taxation. The UK Government raised the duty rate on the machines to 25 percent, a move that hit many of the largest bookmakers hard in their pocketbooks.

One of the reasons for the concern over FOBTs is the fact that they are regulated differently than pokies, allowing for much more money to be spent on them quickly. While pokies in pubs and betting shops feature that £2 limit, players are allowed to bet up to £100 per spin as long as the machines can be classified as casino games instead of pokies.

Because of the increased scrutiny over FOBT operations, many of the UK’s largest bookmakers banded together to come up with self-regulation rules on the machines in 2015. Under the new rules, giant companies such as Ladbrokes, William Hill, Paddy Power and others agreed to install technology that would allow players to set time or money limits before they start playing. If players did not set such limits, they would still start to receive warnings after losing £250 or after playing for 30 minutes.

According to the bookmakers, most players stop once they’ve hit a limit, so adding the new warnings should help deter players from getting addicted to the machines. Not surprisingly, however, opponents say these steps aren’t nearly enough, and that harsher steps such as the proposed betting limits are needed to truly reign in FOBTs.

Why Play FOBTs?

FOBTs are great for players who want a better idea of the odds they can expect each time they play a game. There’s very little guesswork involved: if a FOBT offers roulette, you know that there’s an equal chance of the ball landing on each wheel. Play a simulated horse racing game, and the odds on each horse winning are pretty similar to those offered (with a small house edge built in). The only trade-off is that you won’t typically find huge progressive jackpots on FOBTs, as those are constantly changing and variable, which goes against the very concept of the machines.

Playing FOBTs Online

Technically, you can’t play a FOBT online: that takes the whole “terminal” aspect out of the picture, since you’ll be connecting to an online casino from your computer or mobile device instead. But many popular online games do offer fixed odds, including virtual table games like roulette and craps. Some online casinos even include bingo, keno, virtual horse racing and options like betting on simulated coin flips, all of which fit into the fixed-odds model. In other words, if you want to play FOBT games from the comfort of your home, you can do so by signing up at any trustworthy online casino today.

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