the News desk.
|UK Prime Minister announces inquiry into
| Start of the
FOBT end game?
UK Prime Minister Theresa
May has said that her government will undertake an inquiry into fixed-odds
betting terminals (FOBTs).
FOBTs have come under criticism in the UK,
with campaigners unhappy that punters are able to wager up to £100
(118/$132) a time on the machines.
A Parliamentary inquiry into
fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) is set to report on the controversial B2
machines early next year.
Prime Minister May has now followed up on
this by confirming a wide-ranging inquiry into the machines.
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.
Derek Webb, founder of the Campaign
for Fairer Gambling, which has been openly critical of FOBTs, praised the
decision, saying that the organisations efforts will soon be
vindicated. Our position has always been that the government must try to agree
with the Newham Council proposal to reduce FOBT stakes under the Sustainable
Communities Act, Webb said. The government could be subject to a
legal challenge if it does not do so; this enquiry buys time to enable that
agreement to be forthcoming.
He went on to say, The need for this
FOBT enquiry is a direct result of the bookies state of denial and their
attempts to falsely portray betting shops as the safest places to gamble.
It is also a reflection on a weak regulator and the self-serving
responsible gambling agenda that has been mistakenly subscribed to.
The Campaign view is that under this government, it is a racing cert that
this review is just the first move in further controls on gambling.
This has been a difficult week for the UK bookmaking industry, following
the broadcasting of BBCs Panorama documentary Why are gambling
machines so addictive? on Monday evening.
documentary was Wendy Bendel, whose partner of seven years Lee Murphy committed
suicide at the age of 36 after battling a gambling addiction, stemming from his
use of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs). The documentary looked into how
electronic roulette works, the psychological effects a gambling addict
experiences when playing an electronic roulette machine and featured opinions
from a number of relevant figures on the anti-FOBT side but no one was willing
to challenge from the pro-side.
|Previously reported -
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
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
The UKs 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
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
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