The ABB retaliates to Labour’s pledge to reduce maximum FOBT stakes

By Nicole Abbott
In response to Labour’s general election manifesto, in which the party pledged to reduce the maximum stake on gaming machines to £2, the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) have described Labour's promises to be a "bizarre and unjustified attack on betting shops".

The manifesto, which was leaked on Wednesday, reads: "We will reduce the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals from £100 to £2. These highly addictive machines in bookmakers across the country have become a problem for many families and communities.

"They allow players to gamble away £100 every 20 seconds, encouraging people to chase their losses. Labour will also legislate to increase the delay in between spins on these games in order to reduce the addictive nature of the games."

High street bookmakers have reacted with outrage, claiming that such a major cut in gaming machine stakes would inevitably lead to the closure of thousands of betting shops, which would subsequently result in the loss of approximately 20,000 jobs. The horseracing and greyhound racing industries would also have their income cut by millions of pounds.

An ABB spokesman commented on the manifesto, saying: "This is a bizarre and unjustified attack on betting shops from the Labour Party, whose members are among the millions who enjoy their leisure time at their local bookies.

"Labour has fallen for the spin of our commercial rivals who have a vested interest in destroying Britain’s high street betting shops. There is no evidence to show cutting stakes on gaming machines will help tackle problem gambling."

News sources have also reported that Jim Mullen, the Chief Executive of Ladbrokes Coral Group, has spoken out against recent attempts to implement limits on FOBTs.

Mr Mullen said: “All I will say to any policy maker, we will not be going down without a fight. There are 20,000 jobs in the sector at risk and as chief executive I’m not having it.

“So whoever wants to have that debate better have the facts, because I have the facts and there is no evidence to suggest stakes and prizes in FOBTs impact problem behaviour, therefore they shouldn’t be taking them out of the shops, and therefore the shops shouldn’t be closing, so whoever has that conversation with me better be prepared.”

Despite warnings from British bookmakers, there has been speculation that similar pledges may appear in other party manifestos during the run-up to the election on 8 June.

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