No 10 blocks review of ‘crack cocaine’ gambling machines

Fri, 13 Nov 2015

David Cameron has come under fire from his own MPs after a review of dangerous Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) was blocked.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport had proposed a review of the machines, dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling, but the move has been blocked by the Cabinet Office.

Conservative MPs believe the block was sanctioned by No 10, prompting anger that their concerns are being ignored.

Concern

Charles Walker, the Vice-Chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, said that there are a “growing number of colleagues on our benches who are concerned about FOBTs”.

He said he would have “very much welcomed a review”, and added “I don’t like the idea of them, I don’t like the way they operate and I don’t like the way that the betting industry tries to defend them”.

Mr Walker continued: “We all know what they are – they are a way of extracting vast sums of money from people who can mostly ill-afford to lose it.”

‘Scourge’

A spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling stressed that the Cabinet Office has “no business not agreeing to this review”.

. . . they are a way of extracting vast sums of money from people who can mostly ill-afford to lose it.Charles Walker,
1922 Committee

Criticism of FOBTs has come from many quarters, including from MP and mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Mr Johnson described the machines, which allow gamblers to spend more than £100 a minute, the “scourge of our high streets” and a “bad influence on our community”.

Bid rejected

In July this year the Government rejected a bid to reduce the stakes on FOBTs, which was supported by over 90 councils across England and Wales.

The proposal, led by Newham Council, also intended to stop the spread of betting shops in deprived areas.

A spokesman for the Government said: “We do not support Newham Council’s proposal as we have already acted by introducing stronger gambling controls to further protect players and promote responsible gambling”.

The councils are expected to contest the decision.