Skip to content

The Daily Mail on FOBTs

So many things to write about, so little time to write. I’ve had a lot on over recent weeks, and although there has been issue after issue which has warranted putting fingers to keyboard, by the time I’ve had a minute to do so, the moment seems to have passed.

But this morning I’m up at sparrowfart, because I’ve been reviewing the papers on BBC1, so I have a brief moment to contemplate the idiocy that is the front page of today’s Daily Mail. Their lead story could not be more of a fantasy if its byline were JK Rowling.

Apparently, £46bn is put into gaming machines every year in this country. As the TLA has it, FFS.

I have written about this stuff before, but some people don’t seem to get it, so let me try to explain it in a simplistic way that Daily Mail readers may understand.

A gaming machine operates on a margin. If that margin is 100%, then the moment you put money into it, you lose the lot. If the margin is 1%, then if you put your money in you will get 99% of it back, to put in again.

So, imagine you have £100 in £1 coins. If the machine you are playing has a 100% margin, you can put in £100 before you have no pound coins left. You have spent £100 and your turnover is £100. The Daily Mail could legitimately say that you have put £100 into a gaming machine, no argument.

If the machine’s margin is 10%, and you keep separate piles of the money you started with and the money that comes out of the machine, then by the time your pile of 100 £1 coins has disappeared, another little pile of 90 of them has appeared alongside. Next time, it would be 81, and so on.

What this clearly means is that the lower your margin, the more piles of coins you can create in diminishing size, before you get to the point at which you have none. If your margin is 1%, then in very simplistic terms you can have 100+99+98+97… +1, which makes a total of 5050 pound coins, more traditionally known as £5,050. (In fact, it’s a bit more complicated than that because if you could split your pound coin down to return properly 99% of it, then you could spin 459 times before you dropped under a penny, and would generate turnover of £9,900; but the basic point is there.)

Playing a machine that has a 100% margin is a shit experience, unsurprisingly. Whether that is a good or a bad thing is moot: maybe having a shit experience means that you play the machine once, and don’t come back next week when someone has given you another £100. Maybe that means that you spend your £100 on some other vice or frivolity; or maybe that it means you dedicate it to good causes or spend it on someone else. Who knows?

But on the assumption that you play a gaming machine for the same reason as you might pay to play Sonic the Hedgehog – i.e. because that’s how you want to spend your leisure time – it seems fair to me (indeed, right and proper) that you should be able to get the longest run for your money that you can.  I would find it a dull thing to be doing, myself, but then players of FOBTs might not be interested in my idea of a fun way to kill spare time, and although personally I also wouldn’t spend my money on a rollercoaster, that doesn’t stop me accepting that those who do should want the ride to last for as long as possible.

So, would the Daily Mail rather than we had one pile of £100; or do they think a 2% margin is fine (£2,550, by the simple maths), or 5% (£1,050), perhaps? Do they think one is better than the other, and if so, why? Do they reckon that the person who started with £100 really spent five grand? Really?

I know lots of people at the Daily Mail. They are all really intelligent, well-educated people.

So why do they come out with this crap?

Posted in Betting industry, Gambling.

Tagged with , , , .

2 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Following on from yesterday… | A view from Barnes village linked to this post on December 5, 2013

    […] went on Iain Dale’s LBC radio show yesterday on the back of my post about the Daily Mail’s headline, and doing so raised a number of points that I’d like to […]

  2. Brief thoughts on yesterday’s debate linked to this post on January 9, 2014

    […] number of betting shops has gone up. It is simply not true that they have, so why do people say it? As I have said repeatedly on this topic, if the case against FOBTs is so strong, then just make it – don’t make it […]

You must be logged in to post a comment.