Several constituents have signed the 38 degrees petition highlighting concern about Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) and I do agree with the signatories that these machines can ruin lives. Action is long overdue on this.
In towns and cities across Britain, traditional bookies are being turned into mini-casinos and I share your concern about the impact that high-speed gaming machines - on which people can bet up to £100 every 20 seconds – are having on our high streets and town centres.
Evidence suggests that Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) are highly addictive and that their high-speed nature makes them particularly addictive to problem gamblers. I was very disappointed that, in July 2015, the Government rejected proposals from over 90 local councils to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2.
I am aware that the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals APPG has also called for the maximum stake to be cut from £100 to £2, on a precautionary basis until sufficient evidence is presented that the high stakes on these machines do not cause harm. I want to see the maximum stake reduced from £100 to £2 and I believe the Government should act on this.
I welcome the current review of Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures, which applies to England, Scotland and Wales. This shows that the Government has finally woken up to the fact that it has not done enough to curtail the proliferation of FOBTs.
The review is looking at the maximum stakes and prizes for gaming machines and also at whether the right measures are in place to protect the young and vulnerable from gambling advertising. The call for evidence closed on 4 December and I will follow the outcome closely and any proposals that the Government brings forward.
I believe that we need real action to tackle the scourge of FOBTs and to protect users of these highly addictive gambling machines.