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Parliamentary inquiry into FOBTs to be launched 09/06/16
• Long awaited review begins in 2017

A Parliamentary inquiry into fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) is set to report on the controversial B2 machines early next year.

The FOBT All-Party Group will take evidence from a range of stakeholders, including gambling addiction experts and machine users, regulators, executives from the gaming industry and their representatives.

The inquiry gets under way in July and it is believed that the group will publish the findings of the ‘Fixed Odds Betting Terminals – Assessing the Impact’ inquiry early in 2017.

The group, which is chaired by MP Carolyn Harris and held its first meeting last month, has already written to Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, outlining its concerns about FOBTs. In the letter the group asked for a reduction in bets on FOBTs to £2.

They wrote: “Colleagues in both Houses made clear our concern about their impact on the young and vulnerable. Many have reported the tragic impact FOBTs are having on their lives.

“These machines are highly dangerous products, acting as a catalyst for problem gambling, social breakdown and serious crime in communities. It is estimated that 7,000 FOBT machines are smashed and there are 10,000 policy call outs to bookmakers as a result of FOBT-related violence every year.”

The UK’s Local Government Association (LGA) has again urged the government to cut the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting machines (FOBTs) in the region.

Punters in the UK can currently wager up to £100 (€129/$145) on FOBTs, but the government has faced calls from various groups to lower this to a maximum of £2.

The LGA has upheld this demand, stating that stakes should be cut to £2 on FOBT machines in high street shops and £5 in casinos, while also calling for cumulative impact tests to be introduced to enable UK councils to reject applications for new betting shops in areas where there are already a cluster of shops.

In addition, the LGA said that current licensing laws should be updated to allow councils to take health issues associated with problem gambling and anti-social behaviour concerns into account when considering shop applications. The organisation also noted that a triennial review of gaming machine stakes in the UK is now due, with the last assessment having been staged in January 2013.

Despite heightened awareness of the devastating effects of problem gambling, there is some uncertainty over whether the numbers of pathological gamblers are rising.

The British gambling prevalence survey indicates that there are around 450,000 pathological gamblers in the country – about 0.9% of the population. Although industry revenues have risen dramatically, this figure has for the moment remained stable; the results of a new Health Survey for England, expected in the summer, may shed clearer light on whether the problem is growing.

The charity GamCare, which operates the National Gambling Helpline, says it handled an 18% increase in calls from problem gamblers in 2014-15 and saw a 39% rise in clients in treatment.