Daily Mail Against Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

Britons are wagering up to GBP 46 billion a year on betting shops machines, claims the paper

This week, the Daily Mail released an article under the title "The £46 billion cost of Britain's roulette machine addiction," in which it consulted political and problem gambling experts, giving examples of gamblers in trouble in order to illustrate the depth of the problem against which it is advocating.

It referred to the half year financial reports of Ladbrokes and William Hill, reporting: "By comparison, William Hill said GBP 1.3 billion was wagered on over-the-counter bets on sports including horse racing and football over the same period. Ladbrokes said GBP 1.2 billion was wagered on their over-the-counter bets in the first half of this year. The chains revealed they made more than GBP 350 million in net profit in the same period from FOBTs.'

The paper used these FOBT numbers to calculate that for the whole of 2012, on just over half the FOBT machines in the UK market, the two bookmaking firms took in GBP 25 billion in bets. Referring to this, it notes: "Even allowing for the fact that machines in other bookmaking chains might not have as many people playing them, the rapid and continuing rise in popularity of FOBTs means that the total for the year across the industry could be as much as GBP 46 billion."

Further on, the Mail reports that these numbers "have shocked anti-gambling campaigners and MPs, who have asked for tighter regulation of FOBTs," adding the data provided by Gareth Wallace, a policy adviser for the Salvation Army, who stated: "Studies have shown they [FOBTs] are eight times more addictive than other forms of gambling."

One of those who apparently find such results appalling is Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Harriet Harman MP, currently the Shadow Culture Secretary, who condemned the Labour Party's Gambling Act for promoting an increase in bookies with Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, admitting: "I think we were wrong. We have made a mistake and we need to do something about it. If we had known then what we know now, we wouldn't have allowed this."

She also added that she heard many stories from FOTB problem gamblers, and that FOTBs are 'bringing casinos right into the high street', which implies that the law should be changed.

A similar opinion was shared by Labour MP David Lammy: "I want tighter regulation. If you look through the windows of bookies, all you see is young people losing money on these machines," he said, which his party colleague Clive Efford, Labour's Shadow Minister for Sport, confirmed that the party is reviewing gambling laws.

Still, a somewhat contradictory statement was made by a Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman, who said: "The Government has no plans to amend the Gambling Act unless there is clear evidence of a need to do so."

To make the situation more difficult, Labour Party may come into conflict with the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which recently called for more gaming machines in bookies with an aim to prevent clusters of betting shops in high streets, at the same time proposing to give local councils the authority to license each betting shop and decide the number of machines allowed in each outlet.

According to a spokesman for the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), "There is no evidence of a causal link between electronic gaming machines and problem gambling," underlining that betting shops are highly regulated, with established and effective security procedures, and work very closely with police.

"A shop is only opened when there is a business case to do so," he stated.

It was added by a spokesman for Ladbrokes that 'FOBTs are popular products because they offer high pay-outs to customers, and there is no evidence to suggest that they are addictive."

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