FOBTs: MPs have called for stakes to be ‘significantly reduced’
By Bill Barber 11:07AM 31 JAN 2017
A REPORT launched on Tuesday by a group of MPs looking into gaming machines has found there is a ‘prima facie’ case for the controversial product to have a “significant stake reduction”.
However, the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) criticised the report as “deeply flawed” and called for an inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, claiming the report had been funded by commercial rivals of the industry.
The Fixed Odds Betting Terminal All Party Parliamentary Group held a six-month inquiry before launching its report. The MPs said at the very least the maximum stake on gaming machines should be reduced from the current maximum of £100 on a precautionary basis and that there was a case for it to be reduced to just £2.
The report also recommended the government should consider reducing the speed of spins on the machines and also review the number of machines permitted in an individual betting shop. Bookmakers are currently allowed four machines per betting shop.
‘A clear case’
The group’s chair Carolyn Harris MP said: “There is now a clear case for the government to substantially reduce the maximum stake which can be played on FOBTs.
“The time for prevaricating is over. These machines are easily accessed in the most deprived areas, sucking money out of the pockets of families.
“I support a responsible gambling industry, but there is nothing responsible about how FOBTs are currently being operated. I urge the government to take action now.”
However, bookmaker representatives reacted angrily to the report, the interim findings from which were released in December.
The ABB pointed to the group’s associate members who provide funding for the group and which include arcades’ trade body Bacta, the Hippodrome Casino, casino and arcades machine manufacturer Novomatic and casino and arcades company Praesepe.
Speaking before the publication of the report, ABB chief executive Malcolm George said: “This is a deeply flawed report funded by vested interests who would directly benefit if its recommendations are ever implemented.
“The report is the view of a tiny group of anti-betting shop MP. This group has been financed by those with interests in the casino, arcade and pub industries.
“We strongly believe that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards should urgently investigate this All-Party Parliamentary Group.”
He added: “Betting shops are already closing at the rate of more than 100 a year and if the findings of this rigged report are implemented, it could spell the beginning of the end for the high street bookmaker.”
The government is currently carrying out a review of gaming machine stakes and prizes and it has said it will publish its findings and proposals in the spring.