All main UK parties addressing FOBT problem

All main UK parties addressing FOBT problem

Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Adrian Parkinson wants parties to pledge maximum stake reductions

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling (CFG) has told TotallyGaming.com it is “pleased” that all the major UK political parties have made pledges about the future of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) ahead of the General Election tomorrow (Thursday).

The group has led calls for a reduction in the maximum stake that can be gambled on Class 2 betting machines from £100 to £2, arguing that problem gamblers could wager as much as £300 per minute under current regulations.

While welcoming the fact all parties are looking at the FOBT issue, CFG has pointed out that only the Liberal Democrats and UKIP are backing stake reductions, with the latter promoting a £2 limit and the former promising to “substantially reduce the maximum stakes”.

"All the major political parties have referenced FOBTs in their manifestos with the Liberal Democrats, Labour, SNP and UKIP committing to take action against them,” Adrian Parkinson, a spokesman and consultant for CFG and former senior manager with various national bookmakers, told TotallyGaming.com.

“The Liberal Democrats and UKIP have both committed to reducing the stakes and Labour proposes powers to reduce the number allowed or even ban FOBTs. Our campaign has long argued that the only real solution to the problem of FOBTs in betting shops is stake reduction.”

The major political action relating to FOBTs during the last Parliament was an increase in duty paid on profits from FOBTs, from 20 per cent to 25 per cent, which bookmakers claim cost hundreds of jobs in the sector.

Ahead of the 2015 election, the Conservatives are proposing a £50 “permission” threshold for identification, but despite senior party member and London Mayor Boris Johnson recently saying FOBTs “prey on the vulnerable within our society” there seems to be no offer of a further cap on maximum stakes.

Labour has pledged to allow a review of betting shop licenses by ‘communities’ with the power to reduce the number of FOBTs, or even ban them. However, Parkinson is concerned that councils would be scared of taking action due to the threat of litigation.

“We believe Labour is simply proposing conditions be added to the framework under which betting shops currently operate – the Licensing Conditions and Codes of Practice," Parkinson said. 

“It will take a strong case to encourage a licensing committee to take this path, especially when facing the prospect of a legal challenge from betting shop operators.

“The Conservatives have tinkered around the edges with a couple of sticking plaster measures. The root cause of the FOBT problem is the high staking capacity in such easily accessible venues. Deal with the stake and you start to deal with problem gambling.”

Parkinson added: “We are pleased that at last all the political parties recognise FOBTs are a real social issue with two of them now leading with stake reduction as the solution.

“The outcome of tomorrow's election really will determine the future of £100 a spin machines in betting shops."

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