Fixed-odds betting machines 'concerning', say ministers

Fixed odds betting terminal Bookmakers say few people play for high stakes

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Ministers have said the growth of high-stakes roulette machines on the High Street is "concerning" and they do not rule out action to restrict them.

Culture Minister Helen Grant told MPs their future was "unresolved" and bookmakers must take immediate action to increase protection for players.

People can wager £100 every 20 seconds on fixed-odds betting terminals.

Labour said they were "an example of David Cameron's Britain" and councils should have new powers to curb them.

But following a Commons debate, Labour's call for local authorities to be given new powers to restrict the growth of the machines was defeated by 314 to 232 votes.

There are more than 33,000 fixed-odds betting terminals in the UK.

'Debt and misery'

The last Labour government relaxed the gambling laws, allowing bookmakers to start installing them.

Fixed odds betting terminals

  • Fixed odds betting terminals were launched in 1999 after 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 fixed odds betting terminals used remote servers so that the gaming was not taking place on the premises
  • After the 2005 Gambling Act, fixed odds betting terminals 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
  • Punters can place a £100 stake every 20 seconds
  • According to the Gambling Commission there are 33,284 fixed-odds betting terminals across the UK
  • The average weekly profit per fixed odds betting terminals in 2012 was £825, up from £760 in 2011, according to the Gambling Commission
  • The number of betting shops in the UK increased from 8,862 in 2009 to 9,031 in 2013. The big three operators have plans to open hundreds of new shops although many independent operators have closed

But the party has accused the gambling industry of exploiting those changes to target poorer parts of the country,

It says fixed-odds betting terminals are acting as a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour and local authorities should be given new powers to deal with "clusters" of shops opening together.

They would also review the number of high-speed, high-stakes fixed-odds betting terminals allowed on bookmakers' premises and would take steps to make the machines less addictive by requiring pop-ups and breaks in play.

Shadow culture minister Clive Efford said the last government had always maintained the machines should be kept under review.

The "world had changed" since they were first licensed, he said, with the online gambling industry now worth more than £2bn.

"These machines are an example of Cameron's Britain - one rule for constituents and another for big business which operate the betting shops," he said.

Another Labour MP, Brian Donohue, said fixed-odds betting terminals had been "likened to cocaine" as they were "absolutely and totally addictive".

Ministers insist that local authorities can already reject applications for new gambling premises and review existing licences.

But Ms Grant acknowledged the growth of the machines was "concerning" and she expected the industry to introduce voluntary player protection measures, such as suspensions in play and automatic alerts when stakes hit a certain level, by March.

She said the government was waiting for the findings of a study into "how [the machines] are used and the real impact on players" before deciding what further action may be needed.

Ed Miliband outside a bookmakers in north London last month Ed Miliband says bookmakers are targeting disadvantaged communities

"There is no green light for these machines. Their future is unresolved pending the research we have started," she told MPs.

Labour, she added, had liberalised gambling laws and accused them of "rank hypocrisy, total cynicism and outright opportunism".

"Labour bought these machines into being and they have the audacity to bring forward a motion blaming the government for any harm caused," she said.

'Working class pursuit'

The gambling industry insists it does not target deprived areas and has introduced a code of conduct for player protection and responsible gaming.

"Betting is a pursuit enjoyed by millions of working class people throughout Britain and we seek to reach the widest audience possible by being present on High Streets," the Association of British Bookmakers said.

"We accept there are concerns about these gaming machines and are always open to a constructive dialogue with politicians about the appropriate powers for local authorities."

It added: "The claims of widespread problem gambling on machines is just not supported by evidence. The industry continues to develop its approach to harm mitigation for the small number of gamblers who do experience problems."

MPs have previously rejected calls from Labour to reduce the maximum stake from £100 to £2 and to cut the top prize from the current £500.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    128. deadpansean
    So are you seriously blaming government bailing the banks out on the banks?!
    I think they could choose not to.
    Our government and the regulators exposed the society and the national economy to the banks, not the other way round.
    Banker bashing may be popular, but if you let free market take its course we'd be ok. Bailing out the banks is not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    It was Labour who allowed gambling ads on TV of course. What's the odds they never get elected again? Oh sorry - they're not taking bets on that one.

  • Comment number 132.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    How you can blame the absolute stupidity of consumers on the Tories I'll never know.

    Gambling would still be prevalent if this went through. People will still throw their money away. This is another pointless headline grabber that naive people will take in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    This from the party that just a few years ago wanted a casino in every town and thought gambling was the way out of the nation's troubles. So, leopards can change their spots, but beware, they are still the same leopards underneath

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Just before Xmas I read a story about how these machines were being used for money laundering. If that's the case, I'd have thought HM Revenue & Customs should be calling for these machines to be banned outright, not the Prime Minister of Crawley.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    1 Minute ago
    120. deadpansean
    Are you comparing gambling to risk taking? If that's the case, opening a shop, invest in your relative's business, banks' mortgage business is also gambling.
    How is it a RISK for the banks?

    When they can socialise all their losses?

    This just means the game is rigged from the start & the ordinary 'joe' hasn't a look in !

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    119 Sally...

    The state owns it, and rents their scam out to the Canadian Teachers' Union, to whom the licence was granted in 1994, 2001, and 2007.


    Yes Camelot has had the license since inception and they have had an extension to this current licence which will prob be their last but the Canadians have only recently purchased Camelot so where are you getting your info from?

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    a fool and his money are soon parted and I know people say they can get addicted to gambling but there is an amount of self control to use here , I used to smoke , addicted in fact I do not smoke now again force of will . if you cannot afford to lose don't gamble it is that simple . no nannying needed and you got bigger things to worry about Ed than someone putting their JSA in a fruit machine .

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    I dont gamble so it wont directly affect me, but I have seen the effect that gambling addiction can have on a family. It's a marriage and home breaker just like drug or alcohol addiction and can end up with suicide. My personal view would be to ban these machines entirely but I'm sure somebody will find reasons why thats not reasonable or removes somebodys human rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Stop meddling with Darwin's theory! If people can't understand the clear sign on every machine that says "This machine pays out 80%" (eg), then they fully deserve to be relieved of their money (albeit probably 'our' money, as it will likely be ill-gotten benefit money). The govt should not be protecting people from their own stupidity. The same applies to Wonga et al.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    120. deadpansean
    Are you comparing gambling to risk taking? If that's the case, opening a shop, invest in your relative's business, banks' mortgage business is also gambling.
    I think you ought to have a better understanding of the issue before you let us see your bigotry.

    This type of high street casino gambling is all about self-control. don't want to lose? don't go in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    So the banks can gamble our money, but we can't.

    Seems fair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    Come on NHS, declare gambling as an affliction, and they can then give all the addicts a bit less dosh to help wean them off the harder stuff.
    Don't forget that, as ever, this is not the fault of the individual. They should immediatly be given free housing, specilist care, mobility allowance, a part-time job in the afternoons, free holidays for their kids, and free Sky TV and an honarary degree.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Just to put things in perspective..

    The largest gambling arena is stocks & shares run by the banks & with the consequence as seen in 2008 of destroying whole countries & pauperising its peoples.

    If there is any form of gambling that MUST be strictly regulated then the one to go for is the one the bankers / traders use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    "The lotto was approved/started by government & The National Lottery Commission is responsible for licencing & regulating the lotto but do not own it same was as OFCOM do not own telecoms"
    The state owns it, and rents their scam out to the Canadian Teachers' Union, to whom the licence was granted in 1994, 2001, and 2007.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Spike Milligan once called the Heir to the Throne a "Snivelling little git" if I recall, well Spike this is a big one! (Not an Heir to the throne thankfully!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    Local county councils should be fully entitled to ban all such gambling activities in their areas, if they so decide.

    In some areas, even lottery sales can be banned, again, where local people make the choice.

    The same applies to advertising on regional TV networks. Let us ban payday loan adverts if the local councils in a TV region agree.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    21 Cindy Searle

    The gambling industry is vast only because there are the weak minded who don't know when to stop and there are always some do-gooders condoning their behaviour. Basically this is yet another example of too many people with too much time on their hands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    109 Sally...

    The lotto was approved/started by government & The National Lottery Commission is responsible for licencing & regulating the lotto but do not own it same was as OFCOM do not own telecoms

    It has always been run and financed by Camelot who are a commercial organisation that are not linked to the government in any way and now Camelot is owned by the Canadian Teachers Pension Fund.


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