A consultation on highly addictive betting machines, known as the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’, ends today.
The machines have flourished in high street betting shops following Labour’s liberalisation of gambling laws.
Many critics say the machines are a key factor in the explosion in problem gamblers, particularly among the poor.
The Government is open to reducing the amount of money that flows through the machines, but first wants evidence about the harm being done.
Fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) allow people to bet money on virtual versions of games like blackjack and roulette.
But because the machines are computerised, they are very quick to restart a new game when one has just finished.
Recently, a local council dismissed an application for a betting shop because it would be making more money from these machines than from traditional betting on sports results.
Newham council in east London said the Paddy Power betting shop did not meet the licensing conditions of the 2005 Gambling Act.
Councillor Ian Corbett, who chairs the council’s licensing sub-committee said he is concerned about the effects of FOBTs.
He said: “Betting shops we think generate 80% of their income from fixed-odds betting terminals [FOBTs]. They are not making money from over-the-counter bets any more.”
He said this “clustering” in the borough is a “crime generator.”
The consultation document on stake and prize limits by the Department for Culture Media and Sport said it, “cannot ignore the persistent concerns from many stakeholders and local communities about these types of gaming machines and their potential impact on problem gambling”.
It also said, “there is strong consensus that although there may be a lack of evidence of a causal link between gaming machines (of whatever type) and problem gambling, it is a statement of fact that some players are harmed by gambling on machines”.
Don Foster, Liberal Democrat communities minister, wants a restriction of £2 a spin, the same as limits at bingo halls and casinos, saying there is no doubt these machines are “ruining people’s lives.”
Close to one per cent of the population, 451,000, are addicted to gambling, an increase of 150,000 since 2007, according to a national survey.