waiting for research on whether terminals are addictive, but campaigners say
there is plenty of evidence
The government is backing off from tighter regulations on high-speed,
high-stakes gambling machines despite international moves to ban the terminals,
campaigners have said .
This week the Irish government moved to outlaw
fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) because of the "level of concern felt by
the government at the very harmful effects of [them]" but in the UK ministers
say they will not act for at least another year until research into whether the
machines are addictive is completed. The research is being carried out by the
Responsible Gaming Trust, a charity partly funded by the gambling industry.
A paper on limiting the amount
wagered on the machines was expected to be published on Thursday but will now
be released later this summer.
Campaigners say there is plenty of evidence already in the public
domain making the case for tighter regulation, and the refusal to act is
comparable to government backtracking on minimum alcohol pricing and cigarette
With punters conceivably able to bet £100 every
20 seconds on casino games, FOBTs have been dubbed the crack cocaine of
In 2007 the British Gambling Prevalence Survey said "gambling
via virtual gaming machines (eg roulette) .... was the only gambling type that
remained significantly and positively associated with problem gambling".
Norway imposed restrictions on betting machines in 2007, allowing them
only in a strictly controlled state-licensed scheme and imposing a mandatory
limit on the amount players could gamble, mandatory breaks in play and lower
However, there has been staunch resistance from an industry which
has profited from the machines. In 2011 Ladbrokes said the amount staked on the
machines exceeded £10bn that year.
As a first step there have
been calls for Maria Miller, the secretary of state for culture, media and
sport, to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2.
Derek Webb, who founded the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, said: "As the
UK government dithers, the Irish government has acted decisively. By refusing
to reduce the stake on FOBTs, the government is failing to protect young and
vulnerable people, contrary to the licensing objective of the 2005 Gambling
"Instead of adhering to a precautionary principle, the government
is going to wait for bookmaker-funded research, which will take at least
another year and is not guaranteed to tell us anything we do not already know
about FOBTs. Every day that Maria Miller decides not to act, more and more
people will be harmed as result."
A DCMS spokesperson said: "We are
aware of the concerns that have been raised about fixed-odds betting terminals,
however there is a need for proper research on this issue.
currently reviewing the responses following our call for evidence relating to
these machines and links to problem gambling. Once we have examined the
available evidence we will consider what further action, if any, is necessary.
"In addition, the Responsible Gambling Trust have already announced the
largest programme of academic research into gaming machines ever undertaken in
Britain, which should provide a much better understanding of problem gambling