Council uses gambling statement to criticise FOBTs

Council uses gambling statement to criticise FOBTs

Thursday, October 22, 2015 Totally Gaming
Wigan's comments have been opposed by the gambling industry

A UK local council has told TotallyGaming.com that it wants its mandatory gambling policy statement to inspire change in national policy on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Wigan Council has a “concern...of excessive use of FOBTs” according to the foreword of its policy statement for 2016 to 2019, which also includes support for a £2 maximum stake.

The sentiments are featured despite licensing committee agenda documents revealing that both operator Coral and the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) trade group raised concerns about the council – responsible for 321,000 citizens - including the concerns in its policy.

All local councils are required by the Gambling Act 2005 to publish a statement of the principles that they propose to apply when exercising their functions under the Act.

Steve Wearing, licensing manager at Wigan Council, told TotallyGaming.com: “We have serious concerns about the use of these machines and the devastating impact they can have, particularly for those who may not be able to afford to lose the kind of money which is so easily gambled on these machines.

“It is important to remember too that it is not just those who gamble which these machines can affect as families may find themselves without money to pay for essentials like heating or food.

“Here in Wigan borough we have been vocal about our opposition to fixed-odds betting terminals and have called on the government to play its part in tackling these machines which are referred to as the crack cocaine of gambling for their addictive nature.

“By making this statement in our gambling policy statement we are again making that call for things to change.”

The council’s policy foreword will read: “Wigan Council is concerned at the potential effects of excessive use of FOBTs by customers who may be least able to afford to lose cash, coupled with the speed and ease with which they can gamble compared with other forms of gambling. The Council therefore supports any campaign to reduce the stake on FOBTs to a maximum of £2 per spin.”

While no less than 93 local councils last year joined together to promote a reduction in FOBT stakes – a campaign that was rejected by the Government in July – the Greater Manchester borough’s criticism within the statement is considered unique and Coral accused it of a “tabloid journalistic” approach.

In a letter, Coral said: “Coral Racing and the wider betting industry have gone to great lengths to ensure that all customers using the facilities have the relevant information available whilst at the same time implementing revised procedures limiting stake levels and ensuring that our responsible gambling position is maintained at all times.

“We strongly caution against the council adopting a tabloid journalistic approach to this serious matter.”

Council officers opted to keep the statement, adding: “With regard to the gambling industry’s comments, in view of the level of concerns about this particular matter, no changes are proposed.”

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