UK Minister Defends FOBT Operators

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling publication of regionally detailed stats on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals wagering caused political furore in the UK, so that the UK Culture Minister intervened ruling out a crackdown on the machines.

Despite Labour MPs calling the betting machines the "crack cocaine" of gambling and claiming that operators were targeting poorer areas, the Association of British Bookmakers denied that poorer areas were being targeted, or that the machines were addictive.

Talking to Parliament Hugh Robertson, Culture Minister, said there was little evidence FOBTs caused serious problems and rejected the idea of creating new laws to restrict the machines or the betting shops where they are located. He confirmed that the Responsible Gambling Trust was carrying out an investigation into the use of fruit machines and problem gambling.

"This is one of those quite tricky areas where common sense suggests there is a major problem but there is a lack of evidence to back this up. I very much hope that the major research project that is being undertaken will give us the necessary evidence that we need and absolutely, once that is proved, the government will act," said the Minister.

The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee's recent report recommended local authorities to allow bookmakers to operate more than the current limit of four high-stakes gambling machines per shop.

Therewith, the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, backed by psychologist Professor Jim Orford, demanded the machines banned from betting shops on the High Street with immediate effect because they were too addictive and should be restricted to casinos only, or the stakes allowed should be reduced from GBP100 to GBP2.

Culture committee chairman John Whittingdale "shared the concerns" about the machines and agreed that there was a "desperate need" for more research.

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