High Street bookies celebrate fixed odds victory
By staff
The UK’s high street bookmakers saw their stock prices rise last week after the government agreed to allowing them to keep fixed-odds betting machines in their shops.

The deal restricts the number of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT) of any kind to four per shop and the maximum payout to £500 ($847).

The FOBTs, which include virtual roulette and horse racing games, were introduced two years ago after the government put the tax burden on the bookmaking industry onto the bookies rather than the punters.

The games’ unlimited pay-outs proved popular, public, but UK casino governing body the Gaming Board claimed the machines were anti competitive, unlicensed and could cause problems with gambling addicts.

Ladbrokes, the UK’s biggest bookmaker with more than 1,800 outlets, was 'delighted' by the decision, but said it could not speculate on how the regulations will affect its profits. A spokesman said: 'We have 16 weeks to comply to the new rules and will find out how the market reacts after that.'

William Hill chief executive David Harding said the restrictions could impact profits and that he hoped they might eventually be lifted: 'Each of the measures could potentially have an impact on income, but we don’t know how consumers will respond to the change.'

Retail analyst Paul Leyland, of Seymour Pierce, said the agreement was the 'best result the bookies could hope for'.

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