Paddy Power co-founder Stewart Kenny is so opposed to the spread of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) that he secretly lobbied the Irish government in an effort to ban them entirely, according to a recent report in the Times (registration required).
Stewart, who resigned his position as a board member with the company during the summer, submitted a statement to a government committee on FOBTs back in 2009. In his written testimony, Stewart made a case that’s not uncommon outside gambling circles, FOBTs are incredibly addictive in ways that other forms of gambling are not.
The machines are currently legal in Britain, where bookmakers can have up to four in each shop, but are not legal in Ireland, and Stewart wants to keep it that way. In his testimony he makes a strong case for avoiding this type of easy tax revenue altogether saying:
It is in no one’s interest neither betting shop customers nor wider society to legislate to allow them into betting shops.
FOBTs are frequently referred to as the crack cocaine of gambling because they allow punters to make multiple wagers in rapid succession – much faster than standard slot machines. That rapid pace is believed to encourage, or at least exacerbate, problem gambling.
Most gambling industry trade groups, such as the Association of British Bookmakers, refute the idea that FOBTs are more addictive
While FOBTs may have issues, they’re big money makes for bookmakers and tax collectors. In his testimony, Stewart strongly advised the Irish government to avoid becoming addicted to FOBT tax revenues like the British government has.
According to a report on CalvinAyre.com, FOBTs have raised £438 million ($ 552 million USD) in tax revenues.
Despite Stewart’s misgivings about FOBTs, Paddy Power’s UK shops host approximately 1,500 of the terminals.
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