Government rejects bid to curb controversial FOBTs

The Government has rejected a call to reduce the stakes on controversial Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).

The proposal, supported by over 90 councils across England and Wales, was also intended to stop the spread of betting shops in deprived areas.

FOBTs allow gamblers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds and have been dubbed the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’.

High stakes

Councils had asked the Government to lower the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to just £2.

Newham Council, which led the initiative, has said that gamblers can bet up to £18,000 in one hour using the machines.

But a spokesman for the Government said: “We do not support Newham Council’s proposal as we have already acted by introducing stronger gambling controls to further protect players and promote responsible gambling”.

The councils are expected to contest the Government’s decision.

Dangerous combination

The bid by the councils came before the introduction of the Gambling (Categorisation and Use of B2 Gaming Machines) Bill last month, by Lib Dem Peer Lord Clement-Jones.

Lord Clement-Jones’ Bill was welcomed by Dr Dan Boucher, of CARE (Christian Action Research and Education), who said the “socially destructive implications of FOBTs” mean they are an issue that cannot be ignored.

He added: “The £100 stake and rapid speed of play means that it is possible to lose large amounts of money in very short periods of time.

Untold harm

“The best way to address the problem is to end this dangerous combination by reducing the stake from £100 to £2 which is exactly what the Gambling Bill does”.

Lord Clement-Jones’ Bill also seeks to counter the “social disruption left in the wake of FOBTs”, which he said can “cause untold harm”.

His Bill came 20th in a ballot in the Lords which determines the order of introduction of Private Members’ Bills and is unlikely to gain parliamentary time.

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