Government sets gambling review in motion

By Caroline Watson
The UK Government has launched its long-awaited review of gambling which will include an examination of gaming machines along with television advertising by betting firms.

Campaigners have long called for the maximum stakes on gaming machines found in betting shops, also known as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, to be reduced from £100 to £2.

Swansea MP, Carolyn Harris has warned that fixed odds betting machines in bookmakers are dangerous and the government should review their use.

Whilst bookmakers are restricted to four machines per shop, she claims the game makes a “phenomenal” amount of money for the bookmaker. Last year customers lost £1.7bn on these machines alone.

The MP, who is chairing the parliamentary group, comments: “These machines are capable of taking £100 every 20 seconds, that’s £300 every minute.”

Sports minister, Tracey Crouch has gone some way to echoing these concerns, commenting: “In launching this review I am seeking to ensure that we have the right balance between a sector that can grow and contribute to the economy, and one that is socially responsible and doing all it can to protect consumers and communities, including those who are just about managing.

“This will include a close look at the issue of sub-category B2 gaming machines and specific concerns about the harm they cause, be that to the players themselves or the local communities in which they are located.

“I am interested in reviewing evidence across all types of gaming machines, looking at whether the stake and prize limits set out in legislation and the rules on where these machines can be played are right.

“I am also keen to receive evidence on the effectiveness of social responsibility measures across industry, including requirements around gambling advertising.

Malcolm George of The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) says the industry accepts and welcomes another review of the machines, stating: “It’s very easy for the anti-gambling lobby to make strong false claims about the industry.”

He argues it is the most highly-regulated industry on the high street, with employees in the shop being trained to help customers who may have problems: “The range of measures we have on our machines as opposed to those in casinos, are very effective and allow us to identify people who are getting into trouble with their gambling.

“These machines have been in shops for fifteen years, there have been reviews, and when the evidence is put in front of government, they come to the same conclusions: it’s absolutely right they should be there.”

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