Now that the Government has announced that it will be cutting the stake limit on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals from £100 to £2, I’m not sure what I find more depressing: that large numbers of punters have been placing bets on the random generation of numbers by machines, as opposed to exciting sports like horseracing; or that the Government has so precisely jerked its knees in time with the coordinated string-pulling by lobbyists, seemingly without any original thought.
I’m no fan of FOBTs and I welcome the opportunity that has been presented to horseracing to confirm its role as Britain’s favourite betting product. But no one should kid themselves that the Government’s action will eradicate the serious issues associated with problem gambling. Similarly tainted casino games can be played at all hours of day and night, and for greater stakes, online. Meanwhile, gambling addicts will still require help – whether they are playing games online, scratching at National Lottery cards or betting on football.
British betting companies are genuine leaders in their field – and following an announcement, this week, about the opening of US markets, they are poised to export their expertise around the World. While we should be applauding their success, we should also be ensuring that they keep their home-turf in order. Instead of capping one form of gambling, the Government should be ensuring that the betting industry has robust policies in place to deal with problem gambling across all platforms and that they are held accountable for them.
One of the most surprising aspects of the long-running FOBT saga is just how badly the bookmakers have played their cards. For a group of supposedly savvy dudes, they’ve been caught trying to bluff their way through a high-stakes poker game with little more than a pair of threes. Only Paddy Power demonstrated the prescience to stand out from the crowd at an early stage. They alone identified the toxicity of the debate around FOBTs, the turning of the public tide against them, publicly suggesting that a reduction in stakes would be a good idea.
Which begs the question as to whether Paddy Power are better bookmakers than the rest. What else could Paddy Power be right about this weekend?
Using Paddy Power’s odds as a guide, we should expect to see Elton John and Sophie Ellis-Bexter among the guests at Harry and Meghan’s wedding on Saturday; both are listed at just 1/50 to make the congregation at St George’s Chapel. Sir Paul McCartney looks a safe bet at 5/4, while the Beckhams represent value at 3/10. Simon Cowell is a possible at 5/1 and Jennifer Anniston is a 25/1 outsider – odds which appear to be more generous than the 66/1 quoted about Vladimir Putin attending the wedding. Or, for that matter, the 275/1 about Robert Mugabe.
Despite a dry day being forecast in Windsor, Paddy Power are offering a £30 free bet, at measly odds of just 13/8, for rain to spoil the royal couple’s parade. However, in the interest of promoting responsible gambling, I couldn’t possible recommend that readers stake any of their hard-earned cash on the royal wedding markets – even though they are a lot more fun than FOBTs. Weather aside, there is far too much scope for manipulation by conniving palace officials. Instead, why not try a bet on Loch Linnhe, our selection for the weekend, at Bangor Racecourse.
Of all the tracks staging fixtures on Saturday, Bangor wins the award for the most innovative ‘royal wedding initiative’ – with their prize for the best dressed ‘wedding guest’ attending the track on Saturday afternoon. Racegoers can also enjoy pictures of the wedding at both Newbury Racecourse and Newmarket, without having to place any bets on the outcome.