Addictive high street gambling machines must be curbed for the sake of vulnerable people, an MP and think tank have said, as pressure mounts on the Government to act.
Chris Philp – a ministerial aide working in the Treasury – backed a ResPublica review on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) that called for a “viable reform” of the machines.
He said reducing the maximum stake would enable prosperity to return to people and communities.
The Government is currently holding a review covering FOBTs – which allow users to wager up to £100 every 20 seconds. The results are due to be published this autumn.
In a report for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, ResPublica highlighted links between problem gambling, criminal activity and health problems which it said was leading to a burden on taxpayers, the NHS and the police.
It criticised a “permissive, liberalised approach to regulation” and said betting shops have become “drains” on communities.
“For these reasons, ResPublica believes that the time is right for Government to make a practical, viable reform to the failed regulatory framework of the 2005 Gambling Act, by reducing the maximum stake available to FOBT users to £2”, it concluded.
Phillip Blond, the think tank’s Director, said the proliferation of betting shops in poorer areas is “clearly a predatory practice enacted on those who can least afford its costs”.
And Chris Philp, a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Treasury, said changes to FOBTs would bring the UK into line with other developed countries and ‘mitigate’ the damage caused by such machines.
In August, it emerged that the betting industry is explicitly targeting people on lower incomes and ex-gamblers.
An investigation by The Guardian revealed that third-party data providers are used to collect information on the age, income and credit card details of customers which is then passed on to online bookmakers.
Betting sites were found to be encouraging customers on lower incomes to start gambling and former gamblers to start betting again.
Ahead of the 2005 Gambling Act, The Christian Institute warned it would lead to increased betting exposure to society.
In ‘Gambling with our future’, the Institute predicted: “Gambling advertising will appear everywhere from street corners to television and gambling in a casino will become as easy as playing the National Lottery.”