Further to your article (Crackdown on fixed-odds betting terminals unveiled, theguardian.com, 31 October) the UK government looks set once again to dodge the hard decisions around high-stakes gambling. It is over a year since the review was launched and the response is to kick the issue into the long grass with yet a further consultation. Newham residents cannot afford any further delay. FOBTs allow £100 to be bet every 20 seconds. Last year, in Newham alone, it is estimated that nearly £20m was lost on FOBTs. That is the price some of our poorest and vulnerable residents are paying because of this government’s continued inaction.
Newham currently has one of the highest concentrations of betting shops in the country, with 81 across the borough and 12 on one street alone. That is why, since 2014, Newham has led the largest ever nationwide and cross-party submission under the Sustainable Communities Act proposal calling for FOBT stakes to be reduced to £2. Betting shops cluster in deprived areas, contribute to crime and antisocial behaviour and add little to the local economy.
A recent report by the Money Advice Service showed that Newham residents are the most likely in the UK to be burdened by debt; and, while there have been significant improvements, average earnings in Newham remain less than in the UK as a whole. The government must act decisively and reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2. Only such a reduction will provide protections for our residents and promote responsible gambling. If the maximum stake level is set at anything over £2, it will show that the Treasury is putting exchequer profits before people. If the government is genuinely committed to “tackling burning injustices”, it must reduce the stakes to £2 and tackle these “crack cocaine” betting machines once and for all.
Mayor of Newham, east London
Source: The Guardian