High-stakes gambling machine crackdown rejected

Twenty pound notes The machines, located in betting shops, can accept stakes of as much as £100

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The government has ruled out a crackdown on high-stakes gambling machines from betting shops despite warnings about their addictive nature.

The machines can accept stakes of up to £100 and offer prizes of £500.

Culture minister Hugh Robertson said there was little evidence they caused serious problems despite an MP calling them the "crack cocaine" of gambling.

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling said the casino-style machines were often used by people with problems.

In a Commons debate on Thursday, Mr Robertson rejected the idea of creating new laws to restrict fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) or the betting shops where they are located.

The minister said he would only change the law if there was new evidence.

A recent Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report recommended that local authorities should be able to allow bookmakers to operate more than the current limit of four high-stakes machines per shop.

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling said the machines should be banned from betting shops on the High Street with immediate effect.

'Addictive product'

The organisation, backed by psychologist Prof Jim Orford, said they were too addictive and should be restricted to casinos only.

Matthew Zarb-Cousin, a former addict who lost about £16,000 on gambling machines, works with the Campaign for Fairer Gambling. He told the BBC that the maximum £100 stake encouraged dangerous patterns.

He said a maximum stake of £2 should be introduced, effectively banning the high-stakes machines from prominent locations.

"What we've seen here is what looks like an addictive product, a harmful product to the consumer, that's been allowed to go onto the market without knowing how harmful that product is.

"All we have is this anecdotal evidence that these machines are harmful and it doesn't look like the government are taking this issue seriously, especially with the stigma that surrounds problem gambling," he said.

However, Mr Robertson said the government would be prepared to bring in new laws to clamp down on the spread of betting shops.

Start Quote

This is one of those quite tricky areas where common sense suggests there is a major problem but there is a lack of evidence to back this up”

End Quote Hugh Robertson MP Culture minister

Ciaran O'Brien, from bookmakers Ladbrokes, denied FOBTs were a major problem and said the industry takes action to fund "research, education and treatment" for addicts.

He said the average spend on a gambling machine was just under £7, while the average stake on a betting slip is £8.40.

"The vast majority of people enjoy their... experience and do it very responsibly. Where there is problem gambling its important the industry acts responsibly and we have a very good track record at doing so," Mr O'Brien added.

Meanwhile, Dirk Vennix, chief executive at the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), said the "vast majority" of the gambling industry's eight million customers spend "safely and responsibly".

He told BBC Radio Five Live: "They are adults who think about what they spend and how much they can lose - they are not stupid."

Mr Vennix denied that betting shops were becoming more prolific on Britain's high streets, saying bookmakers constituted just 4% of retail space in town centres.

Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins wants the government to take a tougher stance.

He said: "The most addictive form of gambling is on fixed-terminal... machines. They are indeed described as the crack cocaine of problem gambling. Is the government seriously concerned about gambling addiction and when are they going to address the problem?"

Culture minister Mr Robertson said the Responsible Gambling Trust was carrying out an investigation into the use of fruit machines and problem gambling.

But he said any new laws would be based on research not anecdotal evidence.

"This is one of those quite tricky areas where common sense suggests there is a major problem but there is a lack of evidence to back this up," he said.

"I very much hope that the major research project that is being undertaken will give us the necessary evidence that we need and absolutely, once that is proved, the government will act."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Would it be fair to say bankers and politicians are two groups who seem additcted to gambling, with other peoples money that is, and that means our money. Nasty thing this addiction, just look at the mess it got this country into.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    76 Z1A900

    The blessed Margaret bringing people up out of working class had the effect of stopping all the work. Thinking they could get hold of money by gambling up house prices and other immoral fiddles instead of doing proper work like they used to

    But now that has come to grinding halt there being none left to steal. Blessed Margaret & the Tory boys have eaten all the swill some time ago

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.


    Tired of a nanny state trying to run everything to suit a small number who can't or won't control their behaviour and expect everybody else to sort their problems out.
    That's the whole point with addicition - you cant control your behaviour.

    Society suffers the consequences - bookies make big profits.

    Captialists love addictive products and private monopolies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    @79 Tanglefoot

    it must be hard to understand that there is a world outside of the fog of fear and division created by the neo comms .

    The brass necked , bitter cretins running your life benefit from chaos .
    Class warriors need class war to survive .
    Nothing generates class war better than economic melt down .

    Maybe Balls , Brown and milliband did know what they were doing in 2007 ?????

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    @86. Sixp

    Personally not using Amazon anymore as (as the Sainsbury's CEO eloquently pointed out) they contribute next to nothing back to the UK even though they are huge benficiaries of the UK market and people.


    That is fine if you are wealthy enough to be able to afford to pay extra but in the current economic climate many people need to find the lowest price.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Successive governments set the standards lower and lower each year. The only reason this was rejected is based on the taxes these machines provide, there was no real consideration given to the hardship that addiction to this creates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    #86 Amazon do employ my wife's uncle (who had serious mental health problems and is virtually unemployable..certainly Sainsbury's wouldn't give him a job). The other argument is that if I have a £20 budget to spend on an item, get it for £10 from Amazon someone else will get the £10 surplus. Very few big companies pay 'proper' tax. I'd be curious how much Waterstones pay

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Agreed and following suit - ditto parasites like Starbucks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    The themes on the machines speak worlds for their target audience... I take a ferry every day that has a Simpson theamed slot machine... which flashes and makes all sorts of fun sounds when buttons are pushed... kind of like the sort of toy toddlers are given!

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.


    I was going to buy my last camera at Jessops but Amazon did a better deal
    Jessops were doomed because of camera phones + the likes of Amazon.

    Personally not using Amazon anymore as (as the Sainsbury's CEO eloquently pointed out) they contribute next to nothing back to the UK even though they are huge benficiaries of the UK market and people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Quite right too. Tired of a nanny state trying to run everything to suit a small number who can't or won't control their behaviour and expect everybody else to sort their problems out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    71 SwampPuppet

    We are broke because manufacturing base of UK has been exported to far East, thus rendering Britain without a proper basis to its economy. And all to line pockets of Tory elite under the blessed Margaret.

    Banking is not an industry as you might suppose. It makes nothing

    I call this treason & betrayal of Britain. It would be traitors gate if I had my way. Heads on spikes

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    As it is likely that the machines will effect those on low incomes the most, those trying to get a bit of extra money to live on, why should the gov care? It still gets the tax. Besides which, I can't see many of the rich using them when they can go to places like Monte Carlo for a bet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    #79 As someone who owns a small house, earns just over average salary is married (my wife also works), has no kids and drives a small petrol powered car I've seen no evidence any politician no matter what party gives a damn about me or my situation. They just want to take as much off me in tax and give as little back as they can get away with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    73.Sunderlands better than Newcastle

    Whilst I'm really pleased for you that you've stopped gambling, Newcastle are way better than Sunderland ;)

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Of course it is - you only have to look at the Govt's view of problem gambers as espoused by John "the alien" Redwood.....

    ....it is something that happens to us "plebs", not "decent" people like those who live in the hom counties & vote Tory......

    ....so why would this Govt of the richest give a monkies...???

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    @mattmatt81 genuine question..... Are you an aristocrat, mega-rich, a banker or in big business? Because unless you are, why on earth are you backing the Tories?

    Unless you are in one of those grouips, Cameron certainly insn't interested in you or your situation!

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    I suggest that gambling shops are all run by greedy, could not give a damn, right wing types. Tory cronies. Nudge and winkers, mates of DC & probably Prescott as well. He was very keen on the O2 being turned into a Casino. Remember the cowboy boots?

    The Canary Wharf boys ferried across Thames to spend the stolen money, then drop into lap dancing joint to address their marriage failures

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    the labour plants on here give a pretty good impression of the party as a whole .

    completely ignore your own recent mistakes .
    criticise everything tory , success , failure , good and bad .
    and if all else fails BLAME THATCHER .

    All aided and abbeted by the ministry of truth writing Labour out of the uks recent history .

    so thats what the chute your desk is for mr Robinson

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Our Maggie brought a great many people out of the working class by allowing them to buy there homes. This gave people ambitions, though I don't expect the socialist agenda on here to agree with that, we must all be the same as in George Orwell's Animal Farm some our more equal than others.


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