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Casino games offered via touch-screen machines in UK pubs and clubs serve up hugely inferior odds of winning to unknowing gamblers.

There’s nothing quite like the camaraderie around a table when the blackjack cards are running hot and the dealer is having a particularly off day. The house edge is about as good at it gets, there’s room for skill and strategy, and the convivial atmosphere allows an enjoyable fair gambling experience. Unfortunately the same can’t really be said of the electronic touch-screen machine versions of these games often found in UK pubs and clubs which offer vastly inferior odds from their true-life counterparts but don’t say so too loudly.

The odds, sometimes 10 times worse than their real-life equivalents, mean that the house edge on a machine can often be as much as 24%, way higher than in any casino, and whilst the law does say suppliers of the machines must make it clear that the “chances of winning differ from an equivalent real game” that warning is usually hidden in the dank depths of a help file no one reads. This allows major pub chains to insist they are operating within the letter of the regulations, but in no way means they’re entering into the spirit of them.

House Edge Of Over 20% Seems Unfair

These touch screen machines are regulated as Category 3 gaming machines and as such rank alongside the more traditional fruit machines, meaning they can offer a maximum of a 100 GBP prize for a 2 GBP maximum bet. The Gambling Commission currently lists up to 50,000 of these machines across the UK, and whilst a spokesman for the GC said “Manufacturers, suppliers and retailers should assure themselves that the rules of any casino-variant-style games are transparent to ensure customers understand them” a failure to do so only “could” lead to regulatory action.

This did little to impress campaigners who want players better informed about the odds at which they are gambling when putting money into these machines. “If a player tries their hand at roulette thinking they are playing the same game as in a casino or on a betting-shop machine, they are very much mistaken. In fact, they are being ripped off,” said Adrian Parkinson, a spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling. The same is true of all these machines be they featuring Poker or being about blackjack, they’re not really the games they claim to be.