Campaigners against addictive gambling machines are celebrating a Government crackdown on the “social blight” of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
And today the Government has announced that FOBT stakes, which currently can be as high as £100 every 20 seconds, will be cut to just £2.
It is unclear how long the change will take to come into effect, with Parliament needing to back legislation.
The Government has also announced curbs on online gambling and a potential increase on age restrictions for National Lottery games.
Culture Secretary Matt Hancock described FOBTs as a “social blight” which “prey on some of the most vulnerable in society”.
Civil Society Minister Tracey Crouch said it was right to “take decisive action now”.
— DCMS (@DCMS) May 17, 2018
From as far back as 2005, when the Labour Government liberalised gambling laws, The Christian Institute has been raising concerns about the “highly addictive” FOBTs.
The Institute’s Ciarán Kelly said today’s decision was another example of how believers can make a positive difference in society.
It’s time these machines were brought to heel.
“These are the most dangerous type of gaming machine, so in January we urged supporters to support a £2 limit. There are people who have lost tens of thousands of pounds; FOBT addiction has devastated many families.
“We’re very pleased that the Government has finally taken this long-overdue decision and we urge them to waste no more time in securing Parliament’s backing. It’s time these machines were brought to heel.”
Not a silver bullet
Carolyn Harris, who leads the Parliamentary group on FOBTs, said: “This was morally the right decision to make”, adding it was a victory for all whose lives “have been blighted by these toxic machines”.
— FOBT APPG (@fobtappg) May 17, 2018
Labour’s Tom Watson warmly welcomed the decision as curtailing “the reign of destruction and misery” of FOBTs, but warned: “This won’t be a silver bullet for the wider epidemic of problem gambling in the U.K.”.
The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, said: “I am very glad the government agrees that a £2 stake is an essential part of the solution. Of course, there is more work to be done, but the government has made the right decision.”
Gambling companies had mounted fierce resistance to the change and GVC Holdings, which owns Ladbrokes, said it was “disappointed” with the outcome.
Betfred claimed the Government’s decision was “disproportionate” and would result in unintended consequences. It claimed “responsible gambling is at the very heart of our business”.