Miliband goes to war with gamblers over betting machines

Labour leader Ed Miliband has promised that a Labour government would give local councils the power to crack down on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). The betting machines allow players to bet on a variety of games and place a stake of up to £500.

Ed Miliband told the Daily Mirror that FOBTs were "dangerously addictive" and that they can cause "untold damage."The Labour party is set to review the legal limit on the number of FOBTs a bookmaker can have. The current limit is four.

Labour would require that the terminals interrupt customers during play, with pop ups and mandatory breaks.

Ed Miliband likened the spread of betting machines to a disease sweeping through Britain's disadvantaged communities.

He said:

In the poorest areas, these are spreading like an epidemic along high streets with the pawn shops and pay day lenders that are becoming symbols of Britain's cost-of-living crisis.

FOBTs have come under increasing attack from politicians and anti-gambling campaigners, who have labelled the machines the "crack cocaine of gambling."

However, there is little evidence to support the claim that FOBTs have had the devastating impact attributed to them by campaigners.

According to the Institute of Economic Affairs £42bn is put into FOBTs each year. However, 97 per cent of this figure is returned in prizes. The £1.5bn per year lost through FOBTs is equivalent to the amount lost through over the counter betting.

The numbers of betting shops in the UK has also not risen dramatically. From 2000 to 2012 the number of betting shops increased by only 4.5 per cent, after falling to an all time low at the turn of the century.

A spokesman for Association of British Bookmakers said:

This announcement has nothing to do with helping problem gamblers; it is simply about playing politics with the jobs of 40,000 people, and the enjoyment of eight million people for no reason.