Cross-party opposition to dangerous FOBTs

A cross-party group of MPs has urged ministers to support a Bill to alleviate the harm caused by controversial Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).

The Private Member’s Bill, tabled by Lord Clement-Jones, had its second reading in the House of Lords earlier today.

It calls for the maximum stake on FOBTs – which allow users to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds – to be lowered to £2 per go.

Crack cocaine

In a letter to The Times eleven MPs, including Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, former Labour Shadow Minister Sadiq Khan and Conservative MP David Amess, urged their colleagues to support the Bill.

The signatories stressed that “successive Governments have not adequately addressed the issue of fixed odds betting terminals”, often called the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’.

They said that in January 2014, David Cameron “acknowledged there was a problem” and said he would take action if evidence for doing so was presented.

“Since then”, they point out, “the stories of two tragic suicides linked to FOBTs have emerged, which might have been prevented”.


The letter concludes: “We urge ministers to give the bill their full support and take appropriate action to deal with the social and economic harms being caused by FOBTs.”

This week the former Chairman of bookmakers Paddy Power, Fintan Drury, accused ministers of ignoring the damage being done by FOBTs and called for more controls on the machines.

He said: “As the estimated annual investment by gamblers on these machines runs to something like £50 billion, the benefit to the Treasury means that Whitehall turns a blind eye.”

The former gambling chief also said the betting industry and the Government support one another “despite irrefutable evidence of how much damage is being done to society”.


At the end of February a report by the Gambling Commission highlighted the case of one man who was encouraged to keep gambling by Paddy Power until he lost his jobs, his home and his family.

The report revealed that senior staff were warned about the man’s gambling problem but still instructed junior staff to push him to keep betting.

The Commission said: “This was grossly at odds with the licensing objective of preventing vulnerable people from being exploited by gambling”.

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