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Suffolk MP hails decision to cut maximum stake on betting terminals which ‘prey upon vulnerable’

PUBLISHED: 09:59 17 May 2018 | UPDATED: 10:02 17 May 2018

Matt Hancock (Conservative MP for West Suffolk). Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

Matt Hancock (Conservative MP for West Suffolk). Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

Archant

The maximum stake on the so-called “crack cocaine” of gambling is to be slashed from £100 to £2 in a move backed by a Suffolk MP to reduce harm.

West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock, who is also the secretary of state for digital culture and media and support, said fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT) were a “social blight” and “prey on some of the most vulnerable in society”.

The move to cut to maximum stake on FOBTS, announced today by the minister for sport and civil society, Tracey Crouch, comes after a consultation with the public and the industry, which sought to find a balance between a sector that can contribute to the economy and one that is socially responsible.

The government wants to reduce the potential for large losses on FOBT machines and the risk of harm to both the player and wider communities. Following analysis of consultation responses and advice from the Gambling Commission, the government said it believes a cut to £2 will best achieve this.

Mr Hancock said: “When faced with the choice of halfway measures or doing everything we can to protect vulnerable people, we have chosen to take a stand. These machines are a social blight and prey on some of the most vulnerable in society, and we are determined to put a stop to it and build a fairer society for all.

Ms Crouch added: “Problem gambling can devastate individuals’ lives, families and communities. It is right that we take decisive action now to ensure a responsible gambling industry that protects the most vulnerable in our society. By reducing FOBT stakes to £2 we can help stop extreme losses by those who can least afford it.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has welcomed the Government’s decision, having campaigned for the maximum stake to be reduced.

RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer said: “Fixed Odd Betting Machines have blighted communities and caused untold damage to the public’s health, increasing the risk of debt, poor mental health, breakdown of personal relationships and suicide.

“Significant amounts of money are lost every minute in some of our most deprived communities, and this is simply hoovered up by major betting chains – not reinvested in supporting the local economy.

“We have long campaigned for the health impacts of FOBTs be recognized and mitigated and we are delighted that the Government has listened to common sense and put the interests of local communities before big business.”

Other measures announced today include:

•The Gambling Commission will also toughen up protections around online gambling, including stronger age verification rules.

•A major multi-million pound advertising campaign promoting responsible gambling, supported by industry and GambleAware, will be launched later this year.

•The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) has amended its code to ensure that a responsible gambling message will appear for the duration of all TV adverts.

•Public Health England will carry out a review of the evidence relating to the public health harms of gambling.

•As part of the next licence competition the age limit for playing National Lottery games will be reviewed, to take into accounts developments in the market and the risk of harm to young people.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has welcomed the Government’s decision to cut the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2.

In March 2015, as part of its Health on the High Street campaign, RSPH called for a reduction in the maximum bet that can be placed in one game on FOBTs from £100 to £2. FOBTs have been described as the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling, with their capacity to be played rapidly and repeatedly representing a serious addiction issue. There are over 30,000 FOBTs on high streets across the UK, on which regular players spend an average of £1,209 annually. This is considerably higher than the average £427 spent annually on over the counter bets such as those on horse racing and other sports.

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