Bookmakers attack Parliamentary FOBT report calling for £2 stakes

Bookmakers attack Parliamentary FOBT report calling for £2 stakes

Tuesday, January 31, 2017 Posted by Andy McCarron
FOBT All Party Parliamentary Group concludes evidence for reduction

A report by a group of British MPs has recommended that the maximum stake on the controversial Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) found in betting shops should be reduced from £100 to £2.

The FOBT All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), chaired by Carolyn Harris MP, took evidence from, among others, academics, problem gamblers, campaign groups, local authorities, industry experts, Gambling Minister Tracey Crouch, Sarah Harrison, Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission, Chris Kelly, Chair of the Responsible Strategy Gambling Board, and Kate Lampard, Chair of Gamble Aware.

Harris said: “There is now a clear case for the Government to substantially reduce the maximum stake which can be played on FOBTs. The time for prevaricating is over. These machines are easily accessed in the most deprived areas, sucking money out of the pockets of families. I support a responsible gambling industry, but there is nothing responsible about how FOBTs are currently being operated. I urge the Government to take action now.”

The report suggested that there is now a ‘prima facie’ case for significantly reducing the maximum stake that can be wagered on a FOBT and that ‘at the very least’ the stake should be reduced on a precautionary basis, in line with the principles which govern the work of the Gambling Commission, until sufficient evidence is presented to the Government that the high stakes on these machines do not cause harm.

There was also criticism for the regulator, which the report said ‘failed’ to adequately advise the Government in recent years, despite the principles for regulation and licencing under which the Gambling Commission operates.

However, the betting industry’s main trade body the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) refused to participate in the research for the report, calling it a ‘kangaroo court’. It has since strengthened its position, calling the report ‘deeply flawed’ and called for the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to launch an inquiry into the FOBT APPG.

ABB CEO Malcom George said: “This is a deeply flawed report funded by vested interests who would directly benefit if its recommendations are ever implemented. The report is the view of a tiny group of anti-betting shop MPs.  This group has been financed by those with interests in the casino, arcade and pub industries.

“We strongly believe that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards should urgently investigate this All-Party Parliamentary Group. This group of MPs has operated in secrecy, provided no transcripts of the evidence given to their meetings and operated throughout behind closed doors away from public scrutiny.”

The report addressed the non-inclusion of bookmakers: “We were disappointed that the bookmakers declined to participate and fear this is a reflection of their denial of the problems associated with FOBTs and a reluctance on their part to speak to policy makers about appropriate regulation.”

Perhaps more alarmingly for the betting industry, the minister in charge of gambling Tracey Crouch was ‘surprised’ that the bookmakers has declined to appear before the inquiry and that she saw it as a missed opportunity for them.

Totally Gaming says: There’s no getting away from the fact that the FOBT APPG are funded by groups with an interest in seeing the back of FOBTs, but the bookmakers refusal to engage with these MPs is a very high risk strategy indeed, especially when the minister for gambling is taking time to give evidence. A lot will hinge on the triennial report that the DCMS says will arrive in Q1.

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