MPs' gambling report criticised by bookies

Ashley Coates
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Changes To Be Announced To Current Gambling Bill
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A report into fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) has been criticised by bookmakers as a biased inquiry and a threat to jobs.

Backed by a cross-party group of MPs, the report has recommended that the maximum stake on FOBTs be reduced from £100 to £2 in a bid to reduce addiction to gambling and antisocial behaviour.

Carolyn Harris, the Labour MP who chairs the APPG said:

“There is now a clear case for the Government to substantially reduce the maximum stake which can be played on FOBTs. The time for prevaricating is over.”

“These machines are easily accessed in the most deprived areas, sucking money out of the pockets of families. I support a responsible gambling industry, but there is nothing responsible about how FOBTs are currently being operated. I urge the Government to take action now.”

Current rules allow gamblers to bet up to £100 a time on the high street terminals. The machines use a touchscreen to display interactive games such as roulette, and have an average profit of £1000 per week.

All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are voluntary groupings of MPs set up for the discussion of particular interests or issues. The Fixed Odds Betting Terminals APPG includes Tottenham MP David Lammy as well as Stephen Timms and Sir Peter Bottomley.

Ciaran O’Brien, group communications director at William Hill, told City AM:

“This report from a small group of MPs is misleading in that it is masquerading as an independent inquiry when it is nothing of the sort”.

“The APPG is funded by numerous commercial interests in the casino and arcade sectors who stand to benefit from the changes they are recommending. This is not an official report of the House or its Committees and it should state this clearly but it fails to do so.”

“The report ignores the extensive research into problem gambling that shows that stake cuts alone do not represent an effective approach to problem gambling.”

“It also ignores the significant initiatives made by the betting industry which is leading the way in responsible gambling.”

Users of FOBTs need an account with their bookmaker to spend more than £50 on the terminals, where maximum prize money is set at £500. There are 34,809 such machines throughout the UK. MPs today singled out the machines for offering “high stakes casino style gambling with punters at risk of losing £100 every 20 seconds.”

Back in December, shares in both Ladbrokes and William Hill took a hit when the APPG launched its interim report into the terminals. Today William Hill was joined by the the Association of British Bookmakers in criticising the APPG.

"We strongly believe that the parliamentary commissioner for standards should urgently investigate this all-party parliamentary group," Malcolm George, chief executive of the Association of British Bookmakers said.

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