Bookmakers pull new games after Gambling Commission warning

A gambler playing on a machine Image copyright PA
Image caption New rules on fixed-odds betting terminals came into force this week

Two leading UK bookmakers have pulled new high stakes betting games after a warning from the Gambling Commission.

Paddy Power and Betfred faced criticism their roulette-style games undermined new rules on fixed-odds betting.

The maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals was this week cut from £100 to £2, and the regulator warned against any attempts to circumvent the rules.

Betfred said it wanted more talks with the commission, while Paddy Power said its game was only a limited trial.

The £2 cap on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) was recommended by the Gambling Commission in March last year and is backed by the government as part of efforts to reduce gambling-related harm.

The Betfred game involved two cyclists on a screen in shops racing on a velodrome track with numbers on it. When the cyclist at the rear catches the one in front, the number they are on is the winning number.

The numbers are 1 to 36, mirroring those on a roulette wheel, and other bets can be placed on odd or even numbers, colours, rows and columns. Customers could bet up to £500.

Paddy Power's game, with a maximum stake of £100 - the level before this week's FOBT rule-change - also involved betting on numbers between 1 and 36.

A Paddy Power spokesman said: "This game was introduced as part of a short trial in a selection of shops. The trial was ceased within 24 hours of commencement and this product will not be launched across our estate."

Act responsibly

Ahead of the commission's intervention, both firms drew fire from critics. Shadow culture minister Tom Watson described them as "FOBTs through the back door".

Tracey Crouch MP, who resigned as sports minister over the delay in cutting FOBT stakes, said any attempt circumvent this week's changes to the maximum stakes "would be morally irresponsible".

In a statement on Tuesday, Richard Watson, executive director for enforcement at the commission, said: "We have been absolutely clear with operators about our expectations to act responsibly following the stake cut implementation this week.

"We have told operators to take down new products which undermine the changes, and we will investigate any other products that are not within the spirit and intention of the new rules.''

He said that a third bookmaker that was poised to launch a similar product to those at Paddy Power and Betfred had been warned against doing so.

A Betfred spokesman said: "We removed the virtual cycling game and all associated marketing at 10.30am this morning after discussions with the Gambling Commission."

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