England

£2 betting machine limit proposals resubmitted by councils

Men on FOBTs Image copyright ALAMY
Image caption Councils want the maximum bet slashed from £100 to £2

A bid to cut the maximum bet on some High Street gambling machines in England has been resubmitted.

Newham Council is urging ministers to reduce the highest stake on Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2. It says they have "sucked the life blood out of local economies".

An initial plea was rejected in July. But Newham has resubmitted the plan, saying 25% of English councils back it.

The government said it would continue to monitor effectiveness of controls.

The Association of British Bookmakers said: "It is difficult to understand the justification for the time and money councils are expending on this resubmission or why they might expect a different outcome."

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Media captionA guide to how FOBTs work

The original proposal was submitted under legislation which allows councils to urge central government to change the law to help them promote the "sustainability of local communities".

The latest submission comes after talks with the Local Government Association (LGA), which believes the government should reconsider its decision.

It means talks will be held between the LGA and the government over the next six months.

Fixed-odds betting terminals

£1.6bn

profit made by bookmakers from the machines in a year*

  • £100 maximum stake per bet

  • £2 what campaigners believe the maximum stake should be

  • £500 maximum win per bet

  • 34,874 number of FOBTs in betting shops in the UK*

PA

There has been a significant rise in the amount of money gambled using FOBTs in recent years.

Between October 2013 and September 2014, £1.6bn was lost by gamblers using the machines, up from £1.3bn in 2010-11, according to the Gambling Commission.

Newham Council has claimed it is possible to bet up to £18,000 in an hour using them.

Earlier this year, new rules were introduced which meant anyone wanting to place a stake of more than £50 on the machines had to interact with staff or set up an account with a bookmaker.

The government said the change would allow staff to monitor behaviour and act if they identified signs of problem gambling.

'I lost £400k using High Street betting machines'

The street with 18 betting shops

Image copyright PA

A government spokesman said: "We introduced stronger gambling controls to help further protect players and promote responsible gambling in April."

He added: "The government will continue to monitor the effectiveness of existing controls and will take further action if necessary."

But Sir Robin Wales said "lax planning rules" had led to a proliferation of bookmakers in Newham, where there are 83 betting shop licences.

He said: "By reducing the profits made on these machines bookmakers will be forced to think again about their shop numbers."

He added: "The government must now listen, and not miss this opportunity to act in support of 93 councils representing an astounding 23 million people."

'Relevant initiatives'

A spokesman for the Association of British Bookmakers said: "The government made a decision on this issue just six months ago and highlighted that local authorities have sufficient powers, via the licensing process, to manage the presence of betting shops on the high street."

He added: "The ABB and its members will continue to work with local authorities and the Local Government Association in partnership to develop initiatives that are relevant to local communities."

A spokesman for the LGA said the body was looking forward to talks beginning in the new year.

Some powers over gaming machines with a maximum stake of £10 or more in Scotland are expected to be devolved to Holyrood as part of the Scotland Bill.

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