The Disraeli Room

The Disraeli Room

Blog Post

A stake in it for everyone; why Conservatives should support regulation of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

15th May 2017

FOBTs or B2 machines are highly addictive, one way we know this, according to research conducted by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, is that FOBT users are much more likely to be ‘problem gamblers’, statistics from the gambling helpline showed that in one year (2011/2012) 28% of calls to the helpline were from gamblers who were experiencing problems owing to their use of FOBTs. In other words they ‘were much more likely to call the helpline than people involved in other forms of gambling’. We should be concerned because players of these casino-style games are at a high risk of financial ruin, this is not surprising considering that there are more than twice the number of betting shops in the poorest boroughs compared with the most affluent.

Currently the limit such machines can charge per spin is £100, this means a gambler can place a bet of £100 every twenty seconds. ResPublica and the Campaign for Fairer Gambling are calling for this to be changed drastically to a charge per spin of £2 to reflect, and so limit, the damage such gambling can inflict on players and their communities.

One such example of the damage caused by FOBTs, uncovered by the Gambling Commission, was of a man who was encouraged to continue gambling by senior members of staff at a high street gambling firm until he lost five jobs, became homeless and lost access to his children. Junior members of staff had raised concerns about the man’s addiction, once his visits lessened he was encouraged to return by senior members of staff.

The Labour Government’s Gambling Act liberalised the forms of gambling available in ordinary betting shops, this unleashed a new trend for high-stakes, highly addictive games such as roulette to be taken out of specialist premises such as casinos and installed on high streets up and down the country.

This liberalisation has not delivered economic prosperity. Research carried out by Landman Economics has found that gamblers have lost £11 billion on FOBTs since 2008, this money generates little return for the productive economy because such machines reduce the staffing needs of betting shops and the cost of gambling itself reduces disposable and non-disposable income for individuals and families who fall into the ‘just about managing’ demographic. The Prime Minister, and the other major parties, have pledged to assist this squeezed demographic, introducing better regulation of FOBTs would be one surefire of way easing financial burden on this segment of the population.

Howard Reed of Landman Economics according to the The Times said that ‘a billion pounds of ‘average’ consumer spending supports about 21,000 jobs across the UK, whereas £1 billion lost on FOBTs supports only 4,500 jobs in the gambling sector. So every £1 billion lost on FOBTs, over 16,000 jobs in the UK are destroyed.’

There is little reason to support the status quo considering the damage FOBTs cause to individuals, families and communities. Moreover there is evidence to suggest that FOBTs have become a means of money laundering.

During the General Election it is vital that we redouble our efforts to make the case for a less liberalised and more highly regulated gambling market, an endeavour that reflects conservative tenets of family, community and prosperity.

Our high streets should be at the heart of our economic and social fabric, providing places of work and places of collective expression. The disproportionate growth of betting shops, that have come to dominate some high streets, runs counter to that aspiration and has in part been fuelled by the exponential growth in low-cost, low-maintenance FOBTs.

If we are to reclaim our high streets as centres of growth and community we need to limit the profitability of high-stakes, high street gambling.

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