South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has urged the Government to crack down on controversial betting machines labelled the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling.
The Government has launched a consultation on slashing the maximum stake in fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to between £50 and £2.
The time for looking into the matter and reviewing it has long passed. We need action and a reduction of the stakes of FOBTs.Emma Lewell-Buck
The high-stake, high-speed electronic casino games are said to be dangerously addictive and currently allow a stake of up to £100 every 20 seconds, allowing a player to theoretically gamble away £18,000 an hour.
A 12-week consultation is being launched on the proposals, which are aimed at reducing the potential for large losses on the machines.
The Government has also asked the Gambling Commission for more information about how better tracking and monitoring of play on FOBTs might be used to protect players.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling estimates there are more than 100 of the machines in 28 betting shops across South Tyneside, and punters pumped £12,818,032 into them last year, with a cumulative amount of £68,914,148 gambled and £3,204,508 lost.
Culture minister Tracey Crouch said: “It is vital that we strike the right balance between socially-responsible growth and protecting the most vulnerable, including children, from gambling-related harm.”
Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “In 2013 I raised how harmful these machines were. The government then promised to look into the matter, now four years later they have announced a review.
“People in Shields have lost £2.2 million between 2015-2016 due to these dreadful machines,
“The time for looking into the matter and reviewing it has long passed.
“We need action and a reduction of the stakes of FOBTs.”
The announcement is part of a package of measures announced in the Government’s gambling review.
Raising standards of player protection for online gambling, a responsible gambling campaign and new advertising guidelines are among a raft of suggestions designed to help minimise the risk to vulnerable people and children.
Strengthening the code on responsible gambling advertising and responsible gambling initiatives are also being considered.
The Gambling Commission is to look at changes to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice next year, aimed at strengthening player protection online.
It is to set out expectations for the industry for customer interaction online.
An annual budget of £5-£7 million has been earmarked for a two-year advertising campaign backed by GambleAware.