NI betting shop trade group backs FOBT stake cut

Around 230 of 300 betting shops in Northern Ireland have now committed to voluntarily reducing maximum FOBT stakes to £2 after McLeans and Toals become latest to confirm change


Major Northern Irish bookmakers McLeans and Toals have become the latest operators to voluntarily cut their maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to £2.

The pair are members of trade group Northern Ireland Turf Guardians’ Association (NITGA), which has now recommended operators should follow the rest of the UK in reducing the amount that can be wagered on the B2 machines by April 1.

McLeans has around 60 shops in Northern Ireland, while there are approximately 50 Toals properties in the country. Therefore around 230 of the approximately 300 shops in Northern Ireland have agreed to cut maximum stakes, with fellow NITGA members Ladbrokes, William Hill and Paddy Power having already announced the change.

NITGA, which represents around 280 shops in Northern Ireland, told there is an expectation that all its remaining members will follow suit, but that it cannot force businesses to conform.

It added that many of its members are planning to enact the stake reduction but are still working on the technological changes to make it possible.

“We have been consulting with our membership over the past number of months and operators, including A McLean Bookmakers, Toals Bookmakers, Ladbrokes Coral, William Hill and Paddy Power have confirmed that FOBTs within their betting shops will align with the £2 maximum stake,” a NITGA spokesperson explained.

“We are aware that other operators are in the process of exploring how they too can implement the reduced stake and we expect all bookmakers will adopt the £2 limit.”

Earlier this week, Belfast City councillor John Kyle called on Toals, McLeans and Sean Graham to cut their maximum stakes. Sean Graham, which has around 20 shops and is not a NITGA member, has yet to confirm if it will cut stakes.

NITGA said there are approximately 620 FOBTs currently in operation in Northern Ireland bookmakers – generally equating to two per shop.

It added that most income is still generated by traditional over-the-counter betting with income from FOBTs accounting for less than 20%.

While the rest of the UK is bound to bring FOBT maximum stakes down from £100 thanks to legislation passed at the end of 2018, Northern Ireland’s gambling industry is regulated by the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 and not the Gambling Act 2005. This had effectively made it exempt from the maximum stake cut, before the country's bookmakers took action.