The Church of England has called on the Government to clamp down on controversial betting machines known as the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling.
The C of E’s General Synod has warned of the ‘destructive impact’ of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in the UK.
General Synod members unanimously backed calls for the Government to act as ‘a matter of urgency’ to cut the maximum stake that gamblers can wager on FOBTs from £100 per spin to £2.
The motion was put forward by the Diocese of London. An accompanying report stated that there is “clear evidence that the ability to lose £100 a spin ruins lives”.
The Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, slammed FOBTs for causing ‘huge suffering’.
“Not only do they take advantage of those struggling with gambling addiction but they take huge amounts of money from the pockets of some very vulnerable people”, he said.
The report also questioned the lack of Government action to date, and suggested it was because of the large tax amounts reaped from the machines.
“It is hard to avoid the suspicion that the Government’s unwillingness thus far to take effective action to deal with an acknowledged problem may be connected to a concern about the loss of tax revenue which would result,” it said.
Between April 2015 and March 2016, FOBTs raked in £1.7 billion for the UK gambling industry, equating to almost 13 per cent of total industry earnings.
Earlier this month, The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on FOBTs called for action to be taken as it released its report into the machines.
The group accused bookmakers of being ‘in denial’ of the serious problems that FOBTs cause.
“We were disappointed that the bookmakers declined to participate and fear this is a reflection of their denial of the problems associated with FOBTs and a reluctance on their part to speak to policy makers about appropriate regulation,” the report said.
Carolyn Harris MP, Chair of the APPG, said: “There is now a clear case for the Government to substantially reduce the maximum stake which can be played on FOBTs. The time for prevaricating is over.
“These machines are easily accessed in the most deprived areas, sucking money out of the pockets of families.”
She added: “There is nothing responsible about how FOBTs are currently being operated. I urge the Government to take action now.”