The Government has announced new regulations to curb high-stake betting machines, including giving more powers to local authorities to stop the spread of bookmakers.
But critics say the measures are a “missed opportunity” and fail to protect problem gamblers.
The regulations also include requirements for gamblers who are betting more than £50 a time on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) to inform a staff member or get an online account to track spending.
Matt Zarb-Cousin of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling said the plans do not go far enough.
“We know from academic studies that employee training is the most commonly tried method to control problem gambling and the least effective.
“Why would staff stop people from putting money into FOBTs when their pay depends on it?” he added.
Bookmakers Ladbrokes experienced a 9.9p rise in share prices to 153.3p after the Government regulations were not as severe as expected.
Labour MP Tom Watson, who campaigns against FOBTS, said: “If the reforms were meaningful then the companies’ share price would not shoot up.”
“The Government is not offering any protection to vulnerable problem gamblers”, he argued.
FOBTs have been dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling because they provide computerised casino-style games which allow gamblers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds.
Campaigners had urged the Government to lower the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2, a move which is not covered in the latest proposals.
A Daily Mail editorial said the failure to introduce a £2 limit “represents an abject surrender to the giants of the betting industry, who grow fat on exploiting society’s most vulnerable”.
A Campaign for Fairer Gambling poll found that nearly three-quarters of the people surveyed (73 per cent) favour a restriction on the maximum stake, with 60 per cent agreeing it should be lowered to £2.
Other planned measures include further identity checks ensuring users aren’t underage; on-screen warnings and pauses on machines, and introducing a 9pm watershed for gambling adverts.
Department for Culture, Media and Sport Minister Helen Grant said: “We want there to be a gambling sector that is vibrant and responsible. The Government wants to make sure the industry is putting player protection and social responsibility at the heart of their businesses.”
The new regulations will be subject to an impact assessment and independent scrutiny – Grant expects the changes to take effect from October 2014.