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17 May 2018

Betting machines curbed in crucial victory for campaigners

Betting machines curbed in crucial victory for campaigners

The Government has announced that maximum stakes on betting machines in bookmakers will be cut to £2 from their current £100 limit. This is a significant victory that will help protect people from developing gambling problems, and reduce the impact of gambling losses on vulnerable people. 

The Evangelical Alliance has long campaigned on this issue, repeatedly calling for the Government to take action, and has today joined with other faith groups to welcome the announcement. Together with the Salvation Army, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, the Church of Scotland, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, CARE, the Mission and Public Affairs Council of the Church of England, and Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs, we responded to the announcement saying:

"Fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) are a serious problem in society and for local communities, families and individuals. Evidence links them to patterns of addictive behaviour, large financial losses and anti-social and criminal behaviour. Today we warmly welcome the Government's commitment to cap maximum stakes on FOBTs at £2.

"We are clear that solving problem gambling goes much broader than responding to the challenge of FOBTs. We therefore welcome the player protection measures, being taken forward by the Gambling Commission.

"In welcoming this proposed action, we want to make it clear that in addition to the major challenge presented by FOBTs, there are also wider issues associated with gambling that require serious political commitment to address. Therefore, we note that at this stage new powers to oversee gambling are not been given to local authorities. We ask the Government to revisit this.

"We also note that the Government state that 'Gambling-related harm is a health Issue', and welcome the announcement that Public Health England (PHE) is to conduct an evidence review of health aspects of gambling-related harm to inform action on prevention and treatment."

At present betting shops can have four machines with the potential for customers to lose £100 every 20 seconds. In recent years these machines have become the primary source of revenue for betting shops, and to capitalise on the quota new shops have opened close to existing bookmakers, and often disproportionately in more deprived areas. The cut announced by the Government will stem this profit stream, which was often at the expense of those who can least afford to contribute to it. Action is still needed to give local authorities greater discretion in where to permit new betting shops. 

Dr David Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, adds: "This announcement shows the Government is willing to take action, and we applaud it for standing up to the threats from the gambling industry and, instead, standing with those blighted by problem gambling.

"I also want to thank many who have joined with the Evangelical Alliance in calling for this cut to gambling stakes. The joint action of churches, Christian organisations, campaigners and individual Christians has been key in pressing the Government to respond."

While this measure is a significant step, the Evangelical Alliance will continue to work on gambling issues, and encourage the Government to take further action that protects those who are most vulnerable. In particular, gambling advertising is allowed at all times of the day due to a loophole permitting advertising around sporting events. We have called for this loophole to be closed and will continue to press this case. We will also remain vigilant as this measure goes through parliament to ensure that it is not watered down or unduly delayed.