Local authorities across the country last night joined a growing number of councils calling on the Government to restrict Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), the roulette machines in betting shops on which it is possible to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds.
These high speed, high stake addictive gaming machines have led to the proliferation of betting shops on the high street, as each premises is limited to four. Councils are limited in their potential to control or restrict the number of betting shops, and have demanded more powers to deal with FOBTs, machines that have been described as “the crack cocaine of gambling”.
Last night, Fareham Council, Brighton and Hove City Council and Preston Council all voted in favour of restricting FOBTs. This follows on from Liverpool City Council and Hackney Council passing similar motions last month, with Liverpool calling for a total ban.
Conservative-controlled Fareham Council voted to call on the Government to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2, bringing them into line with machines in pubs, bingo halls and amusement arcades.
Leader of Fareham Council Sean Woodward said: “I acted many years ago to remove the scourge of slot machines from Fareham’s chip shops, takeaways and other premises where children could use them unsupervised. Now we have the march into betting shops of the FOBTs where up to £100 can be bet every 20 seconds. They are the crack cocaine of gambling. I very much hope our government will act to bring down the stake to £2 per go.”
Brighton Council also voted unanimously to pressure the Government into action, citing Ireland’s decision to ban FOBTs. Labour Councillor Emma Daniel, who proposed the motion, said: “I am really concerned about the impact FOBTs are having in Brighton and Hove, risking vulnerable people getting into debt with crime and anti-social behaviour escalating in the city as a result of these machines.”
Deputy Leader of Preston Council John Swindell proposed a motion to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2, to restrict the speed of play to one spin every two minutes and to limit the number of FOBTs per shop. The motion received unanimous support from Preston councillors.
Councillor John Swindell said: “With four hundred Preston families using food banks every week and one in four adults in serious debt, the last thing Preston needs is more bookmakers with FOBTs. Preston City Council calls upon Helen Grant the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to take immediate action to limit the number of FOBTs to one per shop; limit the maximum stake from £100 to £2 and restrict the speed of play on each FOBT to one spin every 2 minutes down from 20 seconds.”
Derek Webb, who founded the Campaign for Fairer Gambling’s ‘Stop the FOBTs’ campaign, said: “Local communities and their councillors are far better placed to assess the damage FOBTs are causing than gambling regulators and highly paid civil servants in Whitehall. It is time the Government listened to local authorities, instead of ignoring the localism agenda it claims to support.”
Councillors wanting to take similar action can visit stopthefobts.org and download a model motion here.