Labour calls for showdown with betting machines

The Labour party will use an opposition day on Wednesday to force a vote on its plans to crack down on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). The machines allow players to bet on a variety of games, with payouts reaching as much as £500.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has attacked FOBTs labelling them as "dangerously addictive."

The Labour party is set to review the legal limit on the number of FOBTs a bookmaker is allowed have. The current limit is four. However, Labours criticism is not just limited to FOBTs but also the number of betting shops in general.

Under Labours proposals councils could use planning powers to control the number of betting shops opening in their area.

Ed Miliband has linked the spread of FOBTs and betting shops to, what the party has termed, a cost-of-living crisis.

Speaking in December Ed Miliband 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.

A host of charities, faith organisations and anti-gambling groups have attacked FOBTs as the "crack cocaine of gambling."

However, there is little evidence to the support the claims that FOBTs are having 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 number of betting shops in the UK has also not risen dramatically. From 2000 to 2012 the number of bookies rose by just 4.5 per cent, after falling to an all-time-low at the turn of the century.

Britain also has a relatively low prevalence of problem gambling compared to other countries.