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UK – Local authorities call for FOBT stake reduction

By - 3 December 2014

A group of 93 local councils from across the UK are asking Government to reduce the maximum stake for fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2 to end what they call ‘casino-style gambling on high streets.’

Newham Council, the borough of London that houses the UK’s biggest casino, is leading the coalition and has lodged a Sustainable Communities Act proposal with the Department for Communities and Local Government calling for the reduction.

It claims it would be ‘irresponsible’ for ministers to ignore the local authorities, which includes 31 local authorities in London, as well as Swansea, Derby City Council, Birmingham and Manchester.
The number of licensed betting shops in Newham increased by almost 30 per cent since 2007 and is now home to 86 LBOs.

Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales said: ‘We are fighting hard to ensure that our high streets are not dominated by betting shops who are solely concerned with making a quick buck on a computer roulette-wheel. We have tried to curb the rise in the number of betting shops, but our battle with the betting shops has been thwarted by the lack of tough regulations and the toothless court system. We are standing up for our residents as we pledged to, in a bid to rid our high streets of these clusters of betting shops. We believe that this simple step, which can be taken by government as part of their review of stakes, could be the solution to the problem of clustering.”

A spokesperson from The Campaign for Fairer Gambling said: ‘It would be irresponsible of the Government to ignore so many local authorities, all of which are calling for a stake reduction on FOBTs. Councils are on the front line in having to deal with the consequences of high stake, high speed casino gambling on the high street. If the Government really supports localism, it will respond to Newham Council’s submission by reducing the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2 a spin.’

The bookmaking industry has though been praised The Responsible Gambling Trust who has recently published world-leading and independently conducted research into gaming machines in licensed betting offices. The research shows it is possible to distinguish between problem and non-problem gambling behaviour.

The programme of research was commissioned by the Responsible Gambling Trust to build the knowledge base available to identify harmful machine play and to understand what measures might limit harmful play without impacting on those who do not exhibit harmful behaviours.

The research has been conducted independently by leading experts in gambling behaviour and social research, and reviewed by a panel of international academics to ensure it meets the standards expected of high quality academic research. The findings of the research have been provided to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Gambling Commission to inform policy decisions they may wish to make with regard to these machines. The findings will be presented to the industry at the Responsible Gambling Trust’s annual ‘harm minimisation’ conference on 10 December.

Marc Etches, Chief Executive of the Responsible Gambling Trust, said: “This research speaks for itself. The government, the gambling regulator and the industry all asked us to provide wholly independent research using industry-held data to help inform policy decisions and we have delivered a ground-breaking set of papers in just ten months. When we started this programme there was no credible research into gaming machines in licensed betting offices. Our understanding of these machines and the way people use them is now greatly enhanced.

Marc Etches

Marc Etches

“The bookmaking industry deserves credit for opening itself up to scrutiny. We hope that everyone will consider carefully how the findings of this ground-breaking research can be used to help all gamblers to make better informed decisions and, in particular, to protect those that are vulnerable to gambling-related harm.”

Neil Goulden, Chairman of the Responsible Gambling Trust, said: “The researchers have shown that it is possible to distinguish between problem and non-problem gaming machine play, and they have provided many important insights about player behaviour. This research has huge potential to inform the industry’s approach to minimising gambling related harm and we strongly urge the industry to make every effort to improve how problem behaviour is more effectively monitored and managed in the future.”
Professor Alex Blaszczynski, Chairman of the independent review panel, said: “It is important to highlight the substantive and world-leading contribution to our understanding of problem gambling made by this research. This programme represents the first collaborative endeavour between multiple industry operators and independent researchers. It is of outstanding significance.”

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