Peers have criticised the Government for failing to tackle the rising problem of controversial Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).
Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Clement-Jones led a debate on the issue in the House of Lords last week.
FOBTs, which are known as the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling, mimic casino games such as roulette and allow gamblers to stake up to £100 a spin.
Speaking in the Lords, Lord Clement-Jones challenged proposals by the Government aimed at reducing the worst effects of the machines.
These involve changes to local authority planning regimes and an amendment to gaming machine regulations.
He argued that neither of these measures will be effective and may actually “make the situation worse”.
Weight of opinion
The Peer said that the “only truly effective answer” would be to reduce the maximum stake to £2, compared to the current limit which allows gamblers to bet up to £300 a minute.
Labour Peer Lord Dubs agreed with Lord Clement-Jones saying that: “There is an enormous weight of opinion against these terminals”.
Conservative Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth responded for the Government saying that they “understand the public’s concerns”. He also added: “We have made it clear that we consider the future of their regulation to be unresolved.”
Writing on the PoliticsHome website before the debate, Lib Dem Peer Lord Strasburger said it is time for politicians to tackle an industry “based on exploiting the poor and economically illiterate with devastating results for them, their families and the local community”.
He referred to research carried out by Landman Economics last year, which found that the 50 most deprived local authorities in England have almost one FOBT for every 1,000 adults.
In contrast, the 50 least deprived local authorities in England have approximately one FOBT for every 3,000 adults.
During the debate Lord Clement-Jones highlighted the scale of the problem.
He said: “During 2013, £1.6 billion was lost by gamblers on FOBTs in Britain, with most of the money coming from some of the UK’s most deprived communities. There are now some 34,500 FOBTs across the UK.”
According to the NHS there are thought to be nearly half a million problem gamblers in Great Britain.