Why Cameron could face revolt over FOBTs

Why Cameron could face revolt over FOBTs

Monday, November 9, 2015 Totally Gaming
David Cameron is reported to have blocked a review of gaming machines

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is reported to have blocked a review of fixed-odds betting machines (FOBTs) in a move that is said to have angered senior members of his own Conservative Party.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) had proposed a review of the machines, which made £1.6bn (€2.24bn/$2.41bn) for the industry in the year to September 2014, a £45m rise on the previous 12 months. 

However, the Sunday Times newspaper reported this weekend that the proposal was blocked by the Cabinet Office in a move that Conservative MPs say was sanctioned by No 10. While a review of stakes and prizes is expected next year, the DCMS will, for now, be restricted to an evaluation of rules brought in this year that force gamblers to ask permission from shop staff when playing for high stakes

Charles Walker, vice-chairman of the 1922 committee of Conservative MPs, told The Sunday Times that the decision flew in the face of mounting concerns among party members.

“There are a growing number of colleagues on our benches who are concerned about FOBTs,” Walker said. “I would have very much welcomed a review.

“I don’t like the idea of them, I don’t like the way they operate and I don’t like the way that the betting industry tries to defend them.

“We all know what they are — they are a way of extracting vast sums of money from people who can mostly ill- afford to lose it.”

A group of local councils last year petitioned the government to impose a cap of £2 on FOBT stakes, however this was dismissed in July. The Conservative MPs that have expressed concern about FOBTs include Sports Minister Tracey Crouch and Boris Johnson, who is also Mayor of London.

The Sunday Times said that Johnson declined to comment on the blocked review, but said he wanted ministers to treat the machines with the “utmost caution”.

Johnson added: “Fixed-odds betting machines are the scourge of our high streets and are a bad influence on our community.

“They can be dangerously addictive, their promise of whopping wins only heeds false hope, and they prey on the most vulnerable. Although this is clearly a matter for the two departments, earlier this year I did urge government to proceed with the utmost caution when considering the maximum stakes available on these machines.”


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