Call for gambling machines ban in Liverpool

Matt Pickles says he almost lost everything he had due to his addiction to the gaming machines

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Councillors in Liverpool have called for high-stakes gambling machines to be banned from betting shops in the city.

Councillor Nick Small believes the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), which include games like roulette, are addictive.

"People are spending money they can ill afford on these terminals," he said.

The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) says "no evidence" has been produced to show the machines "cause problems with gambling".

Fixed odds betting terminals

  • Fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) were launched in 1999 after the then chancellor Gordon Brown scrapped tax on individual bets in favour of taxing bookmakers' profits
  • High stakes casino-style gambling is banned from High Streets but FOBTs used remote servers so that the gaming was not taking place on the premises
  • After the 2005 Gambling Act, FOBTs were given legal backing and put under the same regulatory framework as fruit machines
  • They stopped using remote servers but stakes were limited to £100 and terminals to four per betting shop
  • According to the Gambling Commission there, are 33,284 FOBTs across the UK
  • The average weekly profit per FOBT in 2012 was £825, up from £760 in 2011, according to the Gambling Commission
  • The number of betting shops in the UK has increased from 8,500 to 9,100 over the past two years

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of Mr Small's motion at a full council meeting on Wednesday.

They have called on the government to either ban the machines or give local councils the power to restrict how many betting shops can open in certain areas.

Mr Small said: "There's hundreds of betting shops in Liverpool and we just don't have the power to control them.

"Ultimately, we need power to reduce the speed of play and to bring down the maximum stake.

"At the moment you can gamble £100 every 20 seconds. We need to change that."

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling estimated up to £600m a year is being gambled on the machines in the city.

But the ABB, which represents betting companies, said the real annual spend on the terminals was £22m.

Peter Craske from the ABB, said: "The reality is most customers bet around £7.55 and play for about 20 minutes.

"Betting shops are like any other retailer. They are going to open in areas where there are customers and where there is demand.

"We continue to invest in town centres and continue to create jobs. In Liverpool, 700 people are employed in the city's betting shops.

"In the 10 years gaming machines have been in shops, no evidence has ever been produced to show that they cause problems with gambling."

Prime Minister David Cameron has recently promised to take a "proper look" at the issue after a question was raised in the Commons.

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