Betting industry reacts to proposed Scottish FOBT ban

Betting industry reacts to proposed Scottish FOBT ban

Tuesday, December 22, 2015 Totally Gaming
Peter Craske, of the ABB, said that steps were being taken to reduce the risk of problem gambling identified by a Scottish Parliament committee

A proposed ban of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT) in Scotland would be detrimental for punters and lead to “significant” job losses, according to the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB).

Peter Craske, the trade group’s public relations manager, told TotallyGaming.com that its members “take responsible gambling issues very seriously” and said that the industry is taking action to reduce risk.

Craske was speaking after the Scottish Parliament’s local government committee recommended, following an inquiry, that FOBTs should be considered “hard gambling” and banned from betting shops on the high street. The committee reported on the same day that 93 UK councils resubmitted proposals for a £2 maximum stake on FOBTs.

However, Craske suggested that self-exclusion schemes and the mandatory £50 maximum stake showed that both operators and government had taken steps to reduce the risks associated with FOBTs.

“We all take responsible gambling issues very seriously, and while gambling-related harm across the retail betting industry remains low, the industry continues to implement measures to help those who may develop a problem with their gambling,” Craske said.

“Gaming machines have been played in betting shops for 15 years, and they are popular with our customers. In that time, according to the independent Scottish Health Survey (2013) problem gambling levels have remained stable, and have recently reduced to 0.4 per cent of the population.

“The committee’s proposals would limit choice for the vast majority of customers who gamble responsibly, cost significant numbers of jobs and lead to shop closures.

“The industry currently employs 7,000 people in Scotland, contributing £115m (€156.6m/$171.2m) a year in taxation, with each shop paying an average of £11,000 in business rates to local authorities.”

The inquiry was set up to consider how Scotland should regulate FOBTs, with a clause of The Scotland Bill 2015 giving Holyrood powers for the first time to limit the licensing of gaming machines where the maximum charge for a single play is more than £10.

However, committee chairman Kevin Stewart MSP said that the strength of the evidence heard by the panel against the machines – including vociferous criticism from Simon Thomas, owner of the London Hippodrome casino - suggested that a full ban must be considered.

Stewart said: “Our committee has been shocked by some of the evidence it has received about FOBT machines. We have heard how quickly and easily players can become addicted and lose hundreds, sometimes thousands, of pounds.

“The Scotland Bill proposals stem from a concern about the harmful effects of FOBTs but the Bill would not give the Scottish Parliament any real and effective powers to tackle these. The Bill simply does not go far enough.

“We believe that the maximum stake of £100 per game and ability to play three games per minute mean FOBTs are a form of hard gambling and must, therefore, be banned from the high street.”

The committee urged the UK and Scottish governments to commission independent research into the effects of playing FOBTs.

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