The Government has failed to curb fixed-odds betting terminals, dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling.
MPs backed changes to increase stakes and prizes for slot machines last week – but the amendments do not lower the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100.
Labour MPs were told to vote against the proposals – yet it was a Labour Government that liberalised laws which formally allowed betting shops to have FOBTs in 2005.
John Leech MP, the Lib Dem culture, media and sport spokesperson, said: “It was Labour who introduced these highly damaging and addictive gaming machines that have wreaked so much damage to people’s lives”.
He added: “We are pleased that Labour has finally woken up to the damage that their policies have caused on deprived High Streets up and down the country.”
Statistics from a gambling charity show that people in poorer areas are being sucked into using FOBTs.
And Gambling Commission figures show that bookmakers received £1.55 billion in profits from betting machines between April 2012 and March 2013.
FOBTs allow gamblers to stake up to £100 a spin and up to £18,000 an hour on virtual versions of casino games like blackjack and roulette.
But because the machines are computerised, they are very quick to start a new game when one has just finished.
Critics have argued that the stakes should be cut to £2 a spin but Tory culture minister Helen Grant said in a parliamentary committee it is “not clear at this stage” that a reduction in stake would decrease problem gambling.
Before the vote, Labour MP Tom Watson said MPs had the opportunity to “send a clear signal” that ministers should take a precautionary approach by lowering the stake values on FOBTs, which he said are a menace to the high street.
MPs voted 322 to 231 in favour of the Categories of Gaming Machine (Amendment) Regulations 2014.
Since the recession began in 2008 the proportion of money taken in betting shops from these machines has risen from 33.9 per cent to 49.4 per cent.
People gambled £197 million on high stake betting machines in Liverpool Riverside last year, which has the fourth highest rate of child poverty in the country – according to statistics from the Campaign for Fairer Gambling in January.
And in Rochdale, where on one estate 72 per cent of people are unemployed, people gambled £72 million last year on the machines.
In October the Prime Minister said he wants a “fair and decent approach that prevents problem gambling” and previously said the Government would look into the problems caused by FOBTs.