Several constituents have contacted me recently to share their concerns about fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) and the implementation of a £2 maximum stake.
According to the Gambling Commission – the industry regulator – there are 430,000 problem gamblers in Britain and a further 2 million at risk of developing a gambling problem. Nearly 14% of people who use FOBTs are problem gamblers and in 2016, £1.8 billion was lost on these high-speed machines. This is clearly a problem as for some gambling is no longer just about the entertainment that responsible gamblers seek but an addiction that they need support to fight.
I am extremely concerned about the epidemic of problem gambling and the real damage that FOBTs can cause. These machines have the potential to ruin lives and I believe the maximum stake should be reduced from £100 to £2. Furthermore, the delay between “spins” should be increased to reduce the addictive nature of these games. Following pressure from both inside and outside Parliament, it was announced in May 2018 that the maximum stake would be reduced to £2. The Government said it would give the industry time to implement the changes.
My Labour Colleagues and I had pushed the Chancellor to signal that the maximum stake would be cut to £2 by April 2019 at the latest. Unfortunately, in the budget it was announced that the changes will now be delayed until October 2019. This delay will only extend the financial suffering of problem gamblers.
Problem gambling should be treated as a public health emergency and lowering the stake on FOBTs must be just one part of a broader process of tackling this hidden epidemic. I believe there should be a ban on credit card betting and new rules to allow addicts to tell their bank to stop online gambling transactions.
I will continue to press for urgent action to tackle this problem.