Blackpool MP's blast over potential "watering down" of betting terminals reforms

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals may see  maximum stakes cut when the Government rules later this year
Fixed Odds Betting Terminals may see maximum stakes cut when the Government rules later this year
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A call for stakes to be cut to £30 on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, known as the crack cocaine of gambling, does not go far enough, a Blackpool MP has warned.

Labour’s Gordon Marsden said the Gambling Commission’s suggestion ahead of a Government review on FOBTs was a watering down of earlier calls for a £2 limit on the machines.

The machines currently allow gamblers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds, enabling a player to theoretically gamble away £18,000 an hour.

Mr Marsden said he believed there was a huge industry lobbying campaign to limit the cuts on the stakes to preserve profits.

He said: “I believe the Gambling Commission proposals are inadequate, there has clearly been a major lobbying operation to water down the clear guidelines that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport previously made for £2 bets only.

“Everyone who feels strongly, and Blackpool Council, should be lobbying the new minister Matthew Hancock and the Treasury hard to make sure vulnerable people in Blackpool and elsewhere will be protected from the ridiculous amount of money they can lose on these machines.”

The Gambling Commission yesterday recommended the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals should be cut to £30 or less and that the limit of slot games be reduced to £2.

Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said: “We’ve put consumers at the heart of our advice – advice which is based on the best available evidence and is focused on reducing the risk of gambling-related harm.

“In our judgment, a stake cut for fixed-odds betting terminals alone doesn’t go far enough to protect vulnerable people.”

“That is why we have recommended a stake cut plus a comprehensive package of other measures to protect consumers.

“We have proposed actions that will tackle both the risk of harm and provide solutions that are sustainable in the longer term.”

Fixed Odds Betting Terminal machines generated more than £1.8bn in tax revenue for the Treasury last year.

But campaigners say they allow gamblers to lose huge amounts in seconds.

Carolyn Harris, chairman of the FOBTs All Party Parliamentary Group, said: “The problem is that these machines are addictive. They are built entirely to be captivating, just like heroin is captivating to somebody who has a problem with that. It is essential that the social consequences of these machines are limited by cutting the stake to £2.”

The Association of British Bookmakers said it is considering the recommendations.