Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) are high-speed, high-stakes casino gaming machines that allow players to gamble as much as £100 every 20 seconds. Studies have shown that these machines make a major contribution to gambling addiction, as well as crime and anti-social behaviour.
Several countries including Ireland have already banned the machines, while others have limited the amount players can spend. The UK is the only country in the developed world that allows players to gamble £100 per play. Last week Labour blocked the automatic passage of a Government consultation that would have allowed this to continue. Now Labour MPs are calling on the Government to create a legal limit of £2 per play to protect players and help put a stop to the harmful effects of problem gambling.
On Wednesday Labour voted to reject a Government review that would allow FOBTs to continue to operate with dangerously high stakes. Unfortunately, Coalition MPs used their majority in Parliament to defeat Labour, meaning no action will be taken.
“In recent years we’ve seen a number of new betting shops opening up in Shields, and people I’ve spoken to are concerned about the effect they are having on our community.
“In Shields alone more than £2.8 million has been lost to these machines, more than £660,000 of it by problem gamblers. Cruelly it is poorer households which are affected most, but the whole community suffers because of increased crime and the damage that gambling addiction does to the local economy. Not to mention the impact it has on our high street, where popular local stores are going out of business and being replaced by betting shops.
“The Government had a chance to deal with this problem – they could have implemented a £2 maximum stake for FOBTs. Instead they’ve decided to kick the issue into the long grass. To ignore the dangerous consequences of gambling addiction, which ruins lives on a daily basis, is utterly negligent, and I and other Labour MPs will not allow the Government to get away with it.”
It is estimated that 23% of profits made from these machines come from problem gamblers. In a recent survey more than three quarters (76%) of players agreed they would spend more than they originally planned on FOBTs, while nearly two thirds (62%) said they would keep playing until all their money had gone.
As of last year there were 21 licensed betting shops in South Shields, with an estimated 77 FOBTs between them. Both are well above the UK average.