South Shields MP hits out over fixed-odds betting machine decision

The Government has put back a crackdown on fixed-odd betting machines.
The Government has put back a crackdown on fixed-odd betting machines.

South Shields’ MP has backed a fellow parliamentarian who quit her ministerial post this week in protest at a failed crackdown on fixed-odds betting machines.

Emma Lewell-Buck said Tracey Crouch, who resigned as sports minister, was right in her criticism of the Government’s apparent policy backtrack.

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck

She accused the Ministers of kowtowing to the gambling industry – and alleged the decision would cost the lives of some gambling addicts.

Ms Crouch stood down in a shock move on Thursday, claiming the delay in cutting the maximum stake from £100 to £2 was “unjustifiable”.

Mrs Lewell-Buck, who has campaigned for the maximum stakes’ cut, said: “The Government has bowed to pressure.

“What Tracey said on this issue is right. This delay will cost lives and will cause misery to a lot of people.”

“The Prime Minister has shown that the Government is more interested in powerful businesses than people, it’s a clear signal of where priorities are.

“These machines are said to be the crack cocaine of gambling, and I have had people in my office whose lives have been affected by them.

“The PM is burying her head in the sand over this issue, all her energy is going into Brexit.”

Ms Crough, MP for Chatham and Aylesford, in Kent, said the delay would lead to a further £1.6bn being lost by gamblers.

Her resignation came after Chancellor Philip Hammond said on Monday the stakes’ cut would not come into force until next October.

Many MPs say that is at odds with a pledge made in May, in which the Government seemed to indicate it would be enforced from April.

The Association of British Bookmakers has claimed the policy could see over 4,000 shops could close and 21,000 job lost.

According to the Gambling Commission, fixed-odds betting terminals generate £1.8bn in revenue a year for the betting industry and taxes of £400m for the government.

They allow gamblers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on electronic casino-style games such as roulette.

Opponents insist the machines open the door for huge, instant losses that can contribute to addiction and social, mental and financial problems.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said there had been no delay in bringing forward the measure.