The government has today announced yet another review into gambling and Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. My view is that it would have been better to announce a crackdown on FOBTs today.
FOBTs cause untold misery. They enable people to gamble £100 every 20 seconds. I’ve heard many stories about addicts spending all their cash on these machines and then taking out loans they can’t afford to carry on playing – and losing that money too.
Labour isn’t opposed to gambling. But we do have a duty to call out exploitative practices. That’s why we said we’d impose a £2 maximum stake for FOBTs in our manifesto. The Government could have followed suit. Instead, it is holding a 12 week consultation seeking views on whether the maximum bet should be cut to £2 or £50 or somewhere in between.
You can make you views known by responding to the DCMS consultation HERE.
I encourage you to do so. In addition, if you have any evidence to support your position then send this to firstname.lastname@example.org
The consultation deadline is 23 January 2018.
There are 34,000 FOBTs in Britain and bookies can have up to 4 machines in each shop. Each machine takes an average of £53,000 a year and the amount British gamblers lose on FOBTs has risen from £1bn in 2009 to £1.8bn in 2016 – an increase of 73%. The Gambling Commission estimates that one in every nine people who use them end up addicted. The gambling industry says that limiting their profitability will lead to job losses. My view is that some of our poorest communities already pay too high a price for their popularity. They cause poverty, debt and misery. Families can be torn apart.
The total cost to the taxpayer of problem gambling, including mental health services, policing and homelessness, could be £1.2bn a year.
FOBTs aren’t the only problem but they are one of the most visible and arguably the most destructive form of gambling. We need new legislation to regulate a gambling industry that has changed beyond all recognition since the last Gambling Act in 2005.
Online gaming has become huge business. Bookies advertise on football shirts. The Gambling Commission has found that 450,000 children are gambling in England and Wales each week.
Most tellingly of all, the total amount gambling companies win from punters in the UK was a record £13.8bn last year, up from £8.36bn in 2008/09.
The Government needs to act to get a grip on Britain’s hidden epidemic of gambling addiction. Instead of doing that they have let the industry off the hook. That’s why bookies’ shares rose this morning. Talking is not enough. We need action.
Read more about FOBTs here Bookies Are The Only Winners Of The Government's Gambling Review