Minister who allowed FOBTs calls for government action

Minister who allowed FOBTs calls for government action

Wednesday, January 27, 2016 Totally Gaming
Tessa Jowell said that the machines were "on probation" after their introduction

The Minister who allowed and regulated fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in the UK has admitted that more should have been done to limit their numbers.

Tessa Jowell, who was the Culture Secretary when FOBTs were introduced in 2001 and then regulated in the 2005 Gambling Act, wrote a letter to The Times newspaper claiming that she had always made it clear that the machines were “on probation” and should be removed if evidence were amassed that they were promoting harm.

Jowell commented on FOBTs as figures published by several newspapers this week show that betting shops made £34m a week in profits from the UK’s 34,552 FOBTs during the first half of 2015. Ladbrokes, Coral and Paddy Power each saw their profits from the machines rise on a year-on-year basis during the period, although William Hill experienced a one per-cent decline.

“Protecting the public from the harm that gambling can do was one of the overriding purposes of the Gambling Act 2005,” Baroness Jowell wrote. “That is why the Gambling Commission was given power to regulate FOBT machines. 

"When the latter were first introduced, I made it clear that they were on probation and should be removed in the face of evidence of harm gathered by the commission; the number of machines, speed of play and size of stake were all within its regulatory power.

“In addition, however, further planning regulation should restrict the number of betting shops and therefore the number of FOBTs.

“The government and the Gambling Commission should act — but so too should local authorities, which should be given power to restrict planning consent for new betting shops.”

Last month, 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.


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