Pull the plug on "crack cocaine" of high street gambling

Redditch Advertiser: Labour's parliamentary spokesman for Redditch, Rebecca Blake, outside one of Redditch's nine betting shops. SP Labour's parliamentary spokesman for Redditch, Rebecca Blake, outside one of Redditch's nine betting shops. SP

LABOUR'S parliamentary spokesman for Redditch is calling for more local control over high street gambling.

Rebecca Blake wants the plug pulled on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). These are high speed, casino style gaming machines, which operate in high street betting shops.

Labelled the ‘crack cocaine’ of high street gambling, FOBTs are highly addictive. They run continuously, and invite bets of up to £100 every 20 seconds.

That is stakes of up to £300 a minute - running up to £10,800 a minute in the nine betting shops throughout Redditch.

FOBTs are highly profitable. Nationally, they make up half of the takings for bookies. Most of these gaming machines are concentrated in areas of high unemployment.

The Labour Party called on Parliament to support its proposals to give local authorities the power to control the number of betting shops and FOBTs in their high streets.

But following a Commons debate on Wednesday, January 8, Labour's call was defeated by 314 to 232.

Ms Blake said: "This is another example of the Tory-led Government having the wrong priorities. We don’t want local bookies to be turned into high street casinos."

Despite the Commons defeat, ministers did acknowledge that the growth of these high-stakes roulette machines on the high street were concerning, and did not rule out taking action in the future to restrict them.

Culture minister Helen Grant said that the results of a study into how the machines are used and what the impact is on players was would need to be looked at before any decision on further action was taken.

But she did add that she expected the industry to protection measures for players, such as play suspensions, and automatic alerts when stakes reach a certain amount, by March.

A spokesman for the Association of British Bookmakers said it acknowledged there were concerns about these gaming machines and would welcome discussions with politicians with regard to local authorities' powers.

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