‘Addictive’ high-stake betting machines under review by sport minister

Fixed odds betting terminals, which let gamblers lose hundreds of pounds in less than a minute, have prompted widespread concern

Ministers have launched a review of the gambling industry, including fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) that have been accused of being highly addictive.

The review was announced by Tracey Crouch, the sport minister, who said it would consider the maximum stakes and prizes for gaming machines. It will look in particular at fixed odds betting terminals because of concerns they can be addictive, and other rules on gaming machines across the industry.

The review will also examine whether the right regulations are in place to protect children and vulnerable people. Crouch said it was important that gambling regulations “strike the right balance between allowing the industry to contribute to the economy and enable people to bet responsibly whilst ensuring consumers and communities are protected”.

A record £1.7bn was gambled last year on FOBTs, which allow customers to stake £100 every 20 seconds on electronic versions of casino games such as roulette.

Tom Watson, the shadow culture secretary and Labour deputy leader, said the review was long overdue. “We have been calling on the government to take action on fixed odds betting terminals for many years,” he said. “The government has finally woken up to the fact that it has not done enough to curtail proliferation of FOBTs, which are now a blight on many of our high streets.

“All the available evidence suggests these machines are highly
addictive. That is why Labour wants to see the maximum stake reduced from £100 to £2. They can cause real and lasting damage to gamblers and they have become a huge problem for communities that are often struggling to cope with underinvestment and high unemployment.”

Simon Blackburn, chairman of the Local Government Association’s safer communities board, said: “Councils have long called for a review into gaming machine stakes so the announcement by the government today is a significant step in the right direction. Councils up and down the country are worried about the number of high-stakes FOBTs and betting shops on our high streets. Someone playing on a machine can lose £100 in a matter of seconds in a single play on an FOBT. This is money many people can’t afford to lose.

“Bringing stakes in line with other gaming machines in betting shops and elsewhere on high streets and casinos, would help to protect those at risk from problem gambling, and would be an important step in the right direction,” he added.

Source: The Guardian


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