Blackpool MP's anger over moves to shelve betting machine review

Fixed odds betting terminals
Fixed odds betting terminals
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Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden has blasted moves to shelve a review into gambling machines known as the “crack cocaine of gamblers”.

The study into fixed odds betting terminals, which can see punters bet £100 every 20 seconds, was called by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport last year.

But now Whitehall sources say Chancellor Philip Hammond is considering scrapping the review because it could see tax revenues plunge if stakes were restricted to £2 as has been suggested.

Gordon Marsden said if true, ditching the review would be a “disgrace” since the machines have seen people gamble themselves into poverty and cause huge social problems, particularly in poorer areas of the country and in seaside resorts.

According to the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, there are 157 of the machines in Blackpool, across the Blackpool North and Blackpool South constituencies.

It claimed last August that a total of £175m was gambled on them in the previous year, netting bookmakers more than £5m.

Mr Marsden said: “If it is true that the Government, led by the Treasury, is planning to scrap the review into fixed odds betting terminals which its own Department of Culture, Media and Sport has called for, it would be an absolute disgrace.

“There is ample evidence that FOBTs are not only very addictive and particularly affect poorer communities, but also they are also a big issue in seaside and coastal towns like Blackpool.

“Blackpool Council and many others have commented on the proliferation of these machines on the high streets and the negative effect they have.

“If the Government is really concerned about the loss of revenue then they should not have handed £1bn over to the DUP.

“It is obvious that Philip Hammond is afraid that the review will confirm everything that people have said about the machines.

“Any moves to cancel this review should be resisted by all parties.”

Concerns have been raised in Blackpool that the machines have appeared in deprived communities and could put off visitors in future if they lose huge amounts on money on them.

There are also worries that they will take revenue away from traditional sea-side amusement arcades where punters can only bet much smaller amounts at one time.

A spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling said: “We have had assurances that the Government are going to publish the review in October.

“But we are going to hold them to that timetable and will respond to what they come forward with at the time.

“Our position is that there should be a £2 cap on bets. £100 a spin on these machines is way too high.”