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Is Betting Fun Anymore?

Is Betting Fun Anymore?
Tuesday,October 31,2017

I woke up at 8.45pm this morning and listened to the evergreen Nicky Campbell announcing the Radio 5 phone-in subject of the day: Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.



Normally the start of the phone-in at 9am is my incentive to switch off the radio, start the day and head to work. But I figured listening in this morning WAS work.



I don’t usually get invested in these debates, even on the sidelines. I can always see both sides of every story and I have a natural inclination to take sides with whoever is getting attacked; in this case the betting industry. And I love the opportunity to defend the indefensible and side with the underdog. For these reasons AND the fact that I am the founder and CEO of….an online betting company… I stayed and listened-in, ready to roll my eyes and tut a lot.



I have a genuine passion for all things betting, gambling, odds, games, strategy and competitiveness. I’ve played every gambling game under the sun at one point or another. Some of them were fun and some weren’t.  As a result, I know an inordinate number of gamblers…thousands of them over the years, all gambling on different things in different ways for different reasons. Some trying to win, some having fun, some have nothing better to do. And some are ‘addicted’ and can’t stop.




Gambling is a spectrum; at one end are those who are having fun, a dabble on the side; but at the other end are those who are desperately trying to change their situation and see gambling as the only way out.



So unusually for me, I found myself nodding and agreeing and then cringing whenever anyone from the industry tried to defend their Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. And I did something I swore I would never ever do. I phoned in.



I think the producers were a bit shocked when I announced myself as an industry CEO (fortunately they don’t know the difference between Bet365 and i-pools!) ready to slate the industry’s approach to FOBTs. They whisked me straight in after the news just after a very articulate representative from Gamblers’ Anonymous with the question “So, voracious sharks eating away at their customers?



I think they were expecting me to make some effort to defend the industry’s behaviour. But I couldn’t agree more. Whether it’s FOBTs, online casinos (I mean, seriously, who the hell is playing online casino games???) or traditional sports betting, the providers of gambling have changed the way they are selling their products over the past few years. They are cynically targeting those who have the least chance of winning with products designed to extract the maximum cash in the quickest time. That’s not gambling, it’s exploitation.



Betting companies aren’t selling anything tangible like Amazon or Tescos. No-one walks back from the betting shop with a new DVD or a roast chicken. They come back with empty pockets and an empty feeling. If you ask any betting company CEO what product they are selling they will say “entertainment” and I think they all genuinely believe this. They also argue that their customers have a genuine chance of winning, which is true if they only press the button once and win and cash out. But not many do that, they put the money back in and try again.



The number of players cashing out from these games with a profit is tiny. The CEOs are right, they are not gambling, they are “buying an experience”. And how many players walk away from a FOBT machine having lost all their money thinking “well that was fun, can’t wait until I can afford to do that again”. I’m going for none. Gambling companies are selling bad experiences dressed up as fun. And they are doing so with little regard for the collateral damage it causes.




I’m going out on a limb to say that virtually all “gamblers” that play FOBTs or online casino games have a gambling problem; not because they are vulnerable (some of them are but not all) but because they are being mis-sold a product. I’d like to see some statistics showing what proportion of players win in these games over the long term. Again, I’m going for none.




I can’t see the industry facing up to this issue itself. They are cash-cow businesses racing against each other to empty the well before it runs dry. So it can only be some kind of government intervention. Some talk of banning FOBTs, some suggest restricting the stakes.



My suggestion would be the same one they apply to smoking: put a big sign on every machine and casino game saying “0.1% of players that played this game won money”. And “This machine makes a profit of £150 an hour”.



And have this message flash up before each new player spins the wheel: “Are you sure you want to do this? It’s not fun and you can’t win!”



I sincerely hope the industry thinks about how to “shear the sheep and not kill it” by finding ways to put the fun back into betting.



Tristan, CEO i-pools (on a mission to put the fun back into betting)


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Monday, November 6, 2017 20:53 PM
Well said Tristan, horrible things those machines. On a Friday i usually call in to my local bookie to pick up a football coupon for my dad and usually there is a group of lads hanging round the FOBTs and you can sense the atmosphere in there and it really isn't very nice.

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