The Government has announced plans to further weaken gambling laws in a bid to prop up failing slot machine arcades and bingo halls.
The proposals were announced by the Minister for Tourism and Heritage, John Penrose.
Critics say gambling disproportionately affects the poor and can lead to serious addiction.
John Penrose, who is the Conservative MP for Weston-super-Mare, announced a consultation to consider two possible changes to the Gambling Act 2005 applying to ‘adults-only’ (B3) slot machines.
The consultation, which will close on 25th January 2011, proposes to increase the maximum stake limit from £1 to £2, and permit a modest increase in the number of slot machines in adult-only arcades and bingo clubs.
Mr Penrose said: “I want to ensure these businesses remain competitive in these tough economic times. I believe increasing the stake to £2 and reviewing machine entitlements will provide the boost needed by operators and manufacturers, but public protection must remain paramount.”
The last time the gambling laws were liberalised was by the Gambling Act 2005. Since then charities that help gambling addicts have seen an increase in cases.
GamCare reported a 21 per cent increase in enquiries in 2008, with 51,000 people contacting the charity.
At the time of the Gambling Act 2005 The Christian Institute and others warned that weakening the law would lead to an increase in problem gambling.
Last October a mother told the BBC how her life was destroyed by quick-fire betting machines that she calls the ‘heroin’ of gambling.
Speaking anonymously, she said fixed odds betting machines, known as FOBs, were a real problem for her. They are like a casino and a fruit machine rolled into one.
She was sent to prison for shoplifting offences that she had committed to fund her habit and her children were taken into care.
“The machines are the killer”, the mother said.
Rules limiting their use were watered down when the Government passed the Gambling Act 2005.