Fixed odds betting terminals - Mancur Olson was right

The government has announced that the stakes on fixed odds betting terminals will be reduced to £2. This is proof that governance does in fact work as Mancur Olson insisted it does. It's a fight among special interests for who gets to extract from us.

The news:

The maximum stake on addictive betting machines will be cut from £100 to £2, ministers announced today after reaching a compromise to limit damage to the public purse.

New rules on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) — described as the “crack cocaine” of gambling — will come with tax rises on bookmakers.

There's been a sustained campaign to get this to happen:

It’s nearly 20 years since I was put in charge of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) for one of the major bookmakers, rolling out some of the first ones, and it’s six years since I put the boot into them by turning whistleblower on Panorama.

Why did I turn whistleblower? To highlight the absurdity of £100 spins, in what was then a relatively lax regulatory environment around FOBTs. I wanted to expose the failure of the industry to recognise the impact of £100 stakes and the roulette game itself on the daily life of betting shops – customers and staff.

The point being not that the individual realised how damaging they were. But that other gambling interests were able to coopt those feelings:

Reducing the stake has always been a red herring. As opponents of FOBTs now admit, a £2 stake will make the machines 'unplayable'. The campaign isn't called Stop The FOBTs for nothing. And if FOBTs are removed from the high street, punters will move online, thousands of jobs will be lost and horse-racing will lose millions of pounds.

Gambling is going to continue, problem gamblers will still be problem gamblers. Who makes the money out of them will change, that's all.

As Mancur Olson did point out. Democratic governance does become the fight of the special interest groups over who is able to farm us. By altering the law in their favour and against their competitors.