What Are Category B2 and B3 Gaming Machines & FOBTs?

FOBTGaming machines are a popular thing for punters to play on and a common form of regular income for bookmakers and other gambling enterprises. They’re extremely popular to use at bingo halls between bingo sessions, for example. They are put into Categories by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission, with Category B1 being machines with a maximum stake of £5 and a maximum prize of £10,000.

The most common machines are those that fit into Category B2 and Category B3. They both have a maximum stake of £2 and a maximum prize of £500, with the key difference being the number of each machine type that can be located in various types of premises. The maximum stake on Category B2 machines used to be £100, but it was reduced to £2 after campaigning and a government review.

The Difference Between B2 and B3

b1 b2 b3

The two machine types, Category B2 and Category B3, offer a different playing experience in terms of the sorts of games that are available, though they’re both limited to people aged 18 and over. Here’s a look at the difference you can expect to encounter:

Category B2

Category B2 gaming machines are those that are better known as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. The machines arrived in the United Kingdom in 1999, initially in relatively small numbers. When the government decided to scrap tax on bets in 2001, the number of machines in the country began to swell and had reached as high as nearly 35,000 in 2017.

When the 2005 Gambling Act came into being, it separated various machines into different categories depending on what they offered. FOBTs were put into Category B2, becoming the best example of a machine in that category. The maximum stake was £100, with the maximum winnable jackpot limited to £500 and the games were mostly roulette and slot offerings.

The machines differ from Category B1 machines because the higher Category had a maximum stake of £5 but a maximum payout of £10,000. If several machines were located in the same premises then they could be linked together to have a maximum prize of £20,000. FOBTs have long been controversial because of the amount of money that could be spent on them in a short period of time.

Category B3

The nature of Category B2 and Category B3 machines is such that they don’t seem to differ a huge amount on the outside.

That is especially the case since FOBTs had their maximum stake reduced to £2 whilst the maximum prize remained at £500.

Even so, Category B3 machines offer games are more traditional, meaning fewer games such as roulette.

Where The Machines Can Be Installed

The other key difference between Category B2 and Category B3 gaming machines comes in the form of where they can be found. Though there are similarities, there are also a number of differences.

Here’s a look at each of them:

Location Betting Shop Track Casino Small Casino Large Casino Bingo Hall Gaming Centre
Category B2 Max 4 Max 4 Max 20 Max 80 Max 150 N/A N/A
Category B3 Max 4 Max 4 Max 20 Max 80 Max 150 Max 20% Of Total Machines Max 20% Of Total Machines

FOBT's To BlameAs you might well have guessed from the fact that some of the premises can have the same number of either machine type, the actual reality is that in casinos there can be that number of machines of any combination of devices from Categories B, C and D. In larger casinos, there must be a ratio of machines to tables of 5/1, whilst in small casinos that moves to 2/1.

In order to have a Category B2 or Category B3 machine, the venue in question must have a 2005 Act Casino Operating Licence, a 1968 Act Casino Operating Licence, a General Betting Standard Operating Licence, a Pool Betting Licence, a Non-Remote Bingo Operating Licence or an Adult Gaming Centre Licence, depending on the venue type.

The venues that install Category B machines must ensure that they’re tested by an independent laboratory in order to ensure that they comply with the relevant technical standards. Both machine types will also need to have their Return To Player percentage displayed at all times.

Category B2 Machine Stake Reduction

fobtThe reduction of the maximum stake playable on Category B2 gaming machines was one of the most hotly debated topics in the gambling industry during the latter part of the 2010s. Referred to as the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ because of their addictive nature, Fixed Odds Betting Terminals allowed gamblers to bet huge sums of money in a matter of minutes.

There was a long consultation engaged in by the government to decide what to do with the machines, which saw critics of them say that they were ruining people’s lives at the same time as gambling companies suggested that a reduction in the maximum stake would result in store closures and job losses. That did indeed transpire to be the case, too.

Ultimately the government chose to reduce the maximum stake from £100 to £2, making up the shortfall in the treasury by increasing the Point Of Consumption Tax, which is also known as the Remote Gaming Duty, raising it from 15% to 21%. This obviously saw gambling companies hit even harder than the stake raise on the FOBTs would have done on its own.

Given that as much as £1.78 billion in revenue was generated from Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in 2018, which was about 58% of profits, it wasn’t shocking that the reduction in income gained from them resulted in store closures. Indeed, the UKGC estimated that around 25% of stores would close in the first year after the change to the law. Some betting operators, such as Coral and Ladbrokes, applied to change their bookmakers into Adult Gaming Centres instead of closing them altogether.