Rage against the machine

David Cameron’s former speech writer has called on the government to do more to curb the scourge of Fixed Odd Betting Terminals (FOBTs).

Clare Foges said in The Times today that the current Conservative government’s attitude towards betting machines was “curiously retro” and their refusal to act was “like turning a blind eye while the poor destroy themselves on Gin lane”.

She also cited research which showed 37 per cent of people using FOBTs have experienced harm. Figures released by the Metropolitan Police show there has been a surge in incidents of violence and vandalism in betting shops, 614 in 2014, up by 100 on the previous year.

A story last year in the Sun on Sunday highlighted the alarming consequences of violence in betting shops. CARE’s Dan Boucher was quoted saying the surge in violence was “alarming” and that FOBTs are “socially destructive”.

Last year bookmakers pocketed £1.6billion thanks to the toxic combination of high speed play and a £100 maximum stake. FOBTs have become known as the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling because in just 20 seconds (the time of a single spin) you can bet up to £100.

In July last year, the government rejected a plea from 93 councils in England, asking the government to lower the maximum stake. In December last year, Newham council resubmitted that request. Foges rightly pointed out that it would not need primary legislation to reduce the maximum stake. It could be lowered via an amendment to the Gambling Act.

There is another way the government could proactively support problem gamblers. CARE is supporting a bill by Lord Clement-Jones which would reduce the maximum stake to just £2. The Gambling (Categorisation and Use of B2 Gaming Machines) Bill received its First Reading in June 2015 and is awaiting a date for Second Reading.

To read more about CARE’s on-going work and campaign to reduce the maximum stake click here.



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