Govt must not ‘turn blind eye’ to ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling

Fri, 29 Jan 2016

David Cameron’s former speechwriter has sparked calls for the Government to act over highly addictive gambling machines.

Writing in The Times, Clare Foges warned that “big business” is “profiteering on the vulnerable poor” through Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).

FOBTs, which are known as the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling, mimic casino games such as roulette and allow gamblers to stake up to £100 a spin.

Rethink

Foges’ comments led to a series of letters urging the Government to be decisive on the issue.

Chief Executive of CARE Nola Leach said Ministers could throw weight behind a current Private Members’ Bill which aims to tackle FOBTs.

Lord Clement-Jones, who proposed the Bill, said he hoped the Government would “seriously rethink its approach” and back his plans.

Restrict

Frank Field MP said “local communities should be given the power to decide whether they want FOBTs at all on their high street”.

Baroness Jowell also wrote to The Times claiming that the Gambling Act – introduced when she was the culture secretary – aimed to ‘protect the public from harm’.

She said that when FOBTs were first introduced they were “on probation”, and that now local authorities “should be given power to restrict planning consent for new betting shops”.

Desperate

Clare Foges, who worked as David Cameron’s speechwriter for seven years, wrote: “In high streets across the country a battle is taking place between the willpower of some of the poorest and most desperate, and the rapacious profiteering of the gambling industry.”

She said that the current culture secretary has played down FOBTs and that he would see no problem with them being in service stations.

Downing Street has also “quietly dropped a review into FOBTs”, Foges said, likening its attitude to “turning a blind eye” to 18th century drunkenness.

“This is a straight case of big business profiteering on the vulnerable poor”, she commented.

Lord Clement-Jones’ Gambling (Categorisation and Use of B2 Gaming Machines) Bill, proposes to lower the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2.