The Campaign for Fairer gambling officially launched “Stop the FOBTs” in Westminster yesterday – its latest Campaign which is already gathering public and political support.
The Campaign to stop the proliferation of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) on UK’s high streets has been in the media spotlight since the beginning of the year. MPs from all political parties gathered at the launch at the House of Commons to show support to the new, grassroots Campaign to be organized across the UK.
Founded and funded by Derek Webb, retired businessman and gambling game inventor, the Campaign has already raised the issue of FOBTs up the political and media agenda. Now it plans to bring public opinion to bear on politicians and government through a dedicated website and a series of localised campaigners.
Hosting the event was Labour MP, David Lammy, whose constituency in Tottenham has seen a surge in betting shops and FOBTs – a situation many more MP’s and Local Authorities across the UK are reporting. As traditional high street retailers close, the large PLC Bookmakers move in opening multiple outlets.
Labour MP David Lammy, endorsed the campaign by saying: “FOBTs appeared in bookmakers without any study about what it would mean for problem gamblers, betting shop staff or our high streets. A decade later and it has changed the face of bookmakers. Betting Offices are taking over town centres, problem gamblers are being exposed to ultra-fast casino games and employees find themselves exposed and working alone almost every shift.
“This campaign is about getting the government and the public to understand what is taking place on high streets across the country and make the case for change before it is too late.”
Following an address from Campaign founder Derek Webb, the Campaign’s new website – stopthefobts.org – was also unveiled, which allows users to see estimates of how many FOBTs there are in their area and an estimate of the amount gambled, share their personal experience or write to their MP, by entering their own postcode. The site, using research and analysis developed in conjunction with Geofutures, was explained at the event by Adrian Parkinson – a former betting industry insider who has held various senior management positions with national bookmakers and is now a Campaign consultant.
Former parliamentary researcher and ex-Director of Communications of Gambling Reform and Society Perception (GRASP), Matt Zarb Cousin spoke about his personal experience of FOBT addiction, saying: “Where addiction is concerned, responsibility is a three way street between the addict, the government and the industry. The industry contribute just 0.1% of their profits to the Responsible Gambling Trust – enough to pay for just one NHS clinic for problem gambling in the country. The infrastructure to deal with the rising number of problem gamblers created by the proliferation of FOBTs is not in place, so the government must implement responsible restrictions on these machines.”
Emeritus Professor of Clinical and Community Psychology at Birmingham University, provided his insight into the Campaign by speaking of research which showed that 23% of FOBT revenue was from problem gamblers and highlighted a stronger association between FOBTs and problem gam
blers than any other gambling activity. Jim has researched and written extensively about gambling and other addiction problems and was an academic advisor to the British Gambling Prevalence Surveys.
After an evening of compelling arguments on the need to restrict FOBTs, Derek Webb closed the event citing the US research showing that FOBT gamblers are four times more likely to exhibit symptoms of problem gambling than all other gamblers.
In a powerful speech he urged MPs to take action. In his closing remarks Webb said: “We need to Stop the FOBTs tomorrow, not after the next general election, not after FOBT gamblers have lost around another £4 billion, not after Treasury has taken FOBT direct tax of around another £800 million, not after FOBT problem gamblers have lost around another £1 billion.
“Hugh Robertson at the DCMS has the power to place restrictions on FOBTs tomorrow. He claims that “common sense” says there could be a problem, but he needs evidence. Mr Robertson, Sir, here is your evidence. Please use your common sense and act now.”
For more information or to sign up to the Campaign please visit www.stopthefobts.org