It’s time for the Government to act on the “scourge” of Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), David Cameron’s former speech writer has said.
Writing for the Daily Mail, Clare Foges warned that FOBTs have “spread like a cancer through the poorest neighbourhoods in our country, sucking out money and spurring addiction”.
Her comments come after the Scottish Government also called for a ban on the machines, which allow gamblers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds.
Foges cited figures from the Metropolitan Police which demonstrate a rise in violence and assault in and around betting shops over the last year.
She said: “At the heart of these statistics are the fiendishly seductive fixed-odds machines that act like sirens on the rocks to the weak-willed and addicted.”
She described the tragic case of Lee Murphy, who committed suicide after racking up debts of up to £30,000 a year on FOBTs.
The former speech writer criticised the Government for not acting on concerns and said that a review of FOBTs was “quietly and mysteriously blocked by No 10″ last month.
She concluded: “It is time for the Government not just to speak out, but to act on fixed-odds betting terminals. They are a scourge on High Streets across Britain.
“If the Government has any guts it will reduce the maximum stake allowed — or, better still, ban them. These misery machines are doing our society no good at all.”
At the heart of these statistics are the fiendishly seductive fixed-odds machines that act like sirens on the rocks to the weak-willed and addicted.Clare Foges
In the Scottish Parliament, the Local Government and Regeneration Committee has recommended a complete ban on FOBTs after MSPs were “shocked” at how “quickly and easily” players can become addicted.
Kevin Stewart MSP expressed concern at the way local authorities feel powerless to stop the spread of the machines.
Last month, David Cameron came under fire from his own MPs after a review of FOBTs was blocked.
Charles Walker, the Vice-Chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, said that there are a “growing number of colleagues” on the Conservative benches who are concerned about them.
He said he would have “very much welcomed a review”, and added “I don’t like the idea of them, I don’t like the way they operate and I don’t like the way that the betting industry tries to defend them”.