Bookmakers who refused to take part in an inquiry into Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) are ‘in denial’ of the serious problems associated with the machines, the inquiry has found.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on FOBTs made the comments as it released its report into the machines.
FOBTs allow gamblers to wager up to £100 every 20 seconds and are often dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling because of their addictive nature.
“We were disappointed that the bookmakers declined to participate and fear this is a reflection of their denial of the problems associated with FOBTs and a reluctance on their part to speak to policy makers about appropriate regulation,” the report said.
Carolyn Harris MP, Chair of the APPG, said: “There is now a clear case for the Government to substantially reduce the maximum stake which can be played on FOBTs. The time for prevaricating is over.
“These machines are easily accessed in the most deprived areas, sucking money out of the pockets of families.”
She added: “There is nothing responsible about how FOBTs are currently being operated. I urge the Government to take action now.”
The time for prevaricating is over.
Carolyn Harris MP
Gambling Minister Tracey Crouch said she was “surprised” to hear that bookmakers declined to take part in the report.
The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) claimed that the inquiry had vested interests in other areas as the APPG’s associate members include arcade groups and a casino.
However, the APPG makes plain on its website that their associated members have “no voting power at meetings” and no “influence over its work”.
The report advised the Government to cut the maximum stake from £100 per spin to £2, saying:
“It is critical that the Government considers not just the impact on ‘problem gambling’, but wider gambling related harm caused by the FOBT machines and the cumulative impact on families and communities that these machines can have”.
The report also recommended that new powers be given to local authorities “to prevent the clustering of betting shops”.
Former gambling addict Ian Bartlett described the report as “very encouraging”.
But Bartlett, the founder of GamServe UK, a group committed to safeguards against gambling addiction, sounded a note of caution.
“It may be that at last real and lasting change is on its way. But we can already see the industry challenging every aspect of the review. We’ll have to wait and see whether this inquiry is as effective in practice as it sounds in principle.”
Councillor Simon Blackburn, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, added his backing to the report.
He said: “With rates of problem gambling higher among those who live near clusters of bookmakers, it is essential that, as the report also recommends, councils are given powers to stop further clusters of betting shops on our high streets.”