With more FOBT media coverage this week, the Campaign for Fairer Gambling makes a second contribution drawing together recent articles on fixed odds betting terminals.
In our most recent article on Central Lobby we commented on crimes associated with FOBTs. These stories are now so common that they rarely make the nationals such as “Gambling addict smashed up bookies in revenge after losing thousands of pounds” in the Liverpool Echo.
The Aberdeen Evening Express reported Kevin Stewart MSP’s calls for “a £2 limit on ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling machines after man’s death”. A Treasury spokesperson is quoted saying “We are fully supportive of DCMS’s work to ensure the UK’s gambling regime continues to balance the needs of vulnerable people, consumers who gamble responsibly and those who work in this sector”.
This is exactly where Treasury has got it wrong. Supporting bookies’ jobs by supporting FOBTs is harming more jobs in other sectors. Those who gamble “responsibly” – assuming this means anything – by definition do not have any gambling “needs”.
Victoria Coren Mitchell wrote an excellent commentary in The Guardian, “A stupid gamble on evil machines”. Victoria pointed out that there were over 233,000 sessions in a year where a FOBT gambler lost over £1,000. But as bookie sessions are defined by when the balance of the machine goes to zero, there are likely to be even more FOBT gamblers who have lost £1,000 on a real FOBT session than the data reveals.
Victoria, in addition to being a writer and presenter, has a solid history as a poker player. She knows first-hand more about gambling than others, such as Christopher Snowden of the IEA, arguing against FOBT restrictions.
He recently wrote an article headed “Stop lying about problem gambling” attacking Victoria, anti-FOBT campaigners, Iain Duncan Smith and the Centre for Social Justice, claiming that problem gambling is static, so therefore FOBTs cannot be harmful. The Health Survey out today shows an increase in the overall problem gambling rate.
In respect of FOBT gamblers, it shows that 11.5% are problem gamblers and 31.7% are at- risk gamblers, a total of 43.2%. The increase from the 2012 data of 7.2% FOBT problem gamblers is 4.3%, being an actual increase of 60%!
As a recent Guardian editorial “Betting terminals: an outrageous racket” concluded: “The government has acted before against the indefensible when strengthening regulations on payday loans. There is no excuse for inaction now.”
Meanwhile a Times front page story headlined “Children exposed to huge rise in gambling adverts” explained that the spend on gambling advertising in was £312 million in 2016, a 63% increase on 2012. Many of these ads include the misleading offers that are now being investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority.
Inside The Times, Kate Lampard the CEO of GambleAware wrote a Thunderer column entitled “We should act now or risk a gambling addiction crisis”. Campaign founder Derek Webb responded with a letter to the Editor entitled “Gambling addiction” explaining that there is a current crisis now, that GambleAware has a contributory role and that Ms. Lampard was reluctant to thunder against the bookies that fund her organisation.
Ibrahim Dogus, who chairs SME for Labour, wrote a blog for LabourList stating that “Class is at the heart of the gambling menace – so Labour must tighten the law”. He argued “the industry has shown again and again that it is unwilling and unable to self-regulate effectively”.
Over at ConservativeHome the ABB bowled a wobbler of an article entitled “Lowering the stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals” which was incredibly critical of the Centre for Social Justice report. We stepped in with our straight bat and gave it a knocking.
Over at the i paper, our very own Matt Zarb-Cousin shared his personal story of how he became an underage FOBT gambling addict. In recovery, Matt joined the Labour Party, before finding a role with the Campaign for Fairer Gambling and then going on to be Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesperson for a year, later re-joining us in timely fashion, before the FOBT review is due in October.