Over the past couple of years in particular, fixed odds betting terminals have been well and truly demonised. At some point or another, it came to authorities’ attention that FOBTs were being blamed for some of the most serious outbreaks of gambling addiction Britain had ever seen.

Unsurprisingly, those developing and distributing such machines had quite a different story to tell. Nevertheless, the problem was considered so severe that new legislation was immediately outlined. Legislation designed to protect gamblers from the apparent ‘rabbit hole’ that is the modern FOBT.

Across the UK, there are somewhere in the region of 35,000 fixed odds betting terminals up and running. The majority of which are enjoyed by thousands of gamblers, each and every day.

Hence, it’s an important question whether or not this demonization of FOBTs is justified. Or is the whole thing simply just another folk devil cooked-up by the press?

The short answer…it’s actually somewhere right down the middle. FOBTs are incredibly popular and indeed have the potential to be addictive. But as is the case with most aspects of gambling, it’s down to those using them to determine the outcome.

What Are Fixed Odds Betting Terminals?

If unfamiliar with fixed odds betting terminals, the principle really couldn’t be simpler.  For the most part, FOBT can be used to describe just about any betting terminal positioned in a casino or bookmaker. In most instances however, FOBTs centre on roulette, blackjack, poker, slots, simulated horse racing and other virtual sports.

The difference being that when it comes to FOBTs, there are certain characteristics that define this type of gambling, as follows:

Fixed odds

As the name suggests, fixed odds betting terminals operate with fixed odds. In a casino, traditional examples of fixed odds games include roulette and blackjack.  That being, games where the odds are set in stone and do not vary from one game or event to the next.

Fixed maximum stakes and payouts

There is always an upper limit with regards to how much can be won with any wager. That said, FOBTs vary enormously when it comes to exactly how much can be wagered at any one time.

Fast repeat play potential

One of the biggest decking points with fixed odds betting terminals has always been the way in which they allow players to continue betting continuously, every 20 seconds. Hence, if you really want to continue throwing money into an FOBT obsessively, there’s nothing to stop you doing exactly that.

As for the appeal of FOBTs, it all lies in the potential to win pretty generous sums of money in no time at all. You stake £100, the numbers come up in your favour and you walk away with £500. The problem being that in the vast majority of instances, the machine will simply eat your £100 and leave you with nothing. And when this happens, it’s not uncommon for those affected to attempt to chase their losses.

This is precisely where critics argue the dangers of FOBTs are easy to see. It’s just far too simple to find yourself in a situation where you’re over your head, with absolutely no recalls if you lost more than you can afford to.

Staying Safe with FOBTs

Realistically, you could argue that it’s unfair to demonise FOBTs in their own right. Technically speaking, fixed odds betting terminals are no different to any other gambling activity available. Aside from the fact that bets can be placed every 20 seconds, which remains a point of contention.

As far as advocates are concerned, those who are prone to problematic gambling will always find their fix. If FOBTs were removed from the equation, they’ll simply turn to more traditional bookmaking or casinos. FOBTs may to some extent enable problematic gambling, but to remove them from the equation wouldn’t necessarily have any beneficial impact.

Or at least, that’s the picture painted by the most recent statistics.

Not only this, but it’s perfectly possible to play FOBTs and enjoy every minute of the experience. Just as with all types of gambling, it’s a case of letting common sense and logic be your guide.

Proceed in accordance with the following rules and staying safe with FOBTs doesn’t have to be difficult:

  1. If planning to play FOBTs in any location, establish an exact budget ahead of time. This should exclusively comprise cash that you are willing and able to lose comfortably – never a penny more. The more you take along for the ride, the more likely you are to end up spending money you cannot afford to lose.
  2. It’s also important to consider your bankroll and risk appetite accordingly. If you literally have £100 in disposable income to last the month, you shouldn’t be putting more than £5 on the line with any one bet. As with traditional casino gaming, it’s good to get into the habit of working with a 5% rule. Never bet more than 5% of your bankroll at any one time.
  3. Always take into account the odds of the FOBT you’re planning to play. The odds should be clearly communicated, giving you some indication as to your likelihood of winning. Always remember that the higher the potential prize, the less likely you are to win anything at all.
  4. Just because it’s possible to place a bet every 20 seconds doesn’t mean you have to. Instead, it can be far more enjoyable to take your time, focus on the entertainment aspect and take regular breaks.
  5. Most importantly of all, it’s up to you and you alone to determine when the time comes to walk away. If you start out with a bankroll of £100, maybe establish a 50% win/loss barrier. Roughly translated, as soon as your bankroll hits £150 or £50, it’s time to step away from the machine and return at a later date.

Roughly summarised therefore, FOBTs do have the potential to be risky, but not necessarily on a higher level than any other gambling activity. As always, it’s down to the player and the player alone to draw the line and stay safe.

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