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Mayor of Newham backs research supporting cap of high-street gambling machines

PUBLISHED: 15:33 19 April 2017 | UPDATED: 15:43 19 April 2017

Newham Council has campaigned for fixed odd betting machines to have their maximum stake lowered from £100 to £2. Picture: Daniel Hambury/PA Archive

Newham Council has campaigned for fixed odd betting machines to have their maximum stake lowered from £100 to £2. Picture: Daniel Hambury/PA Archive

PA Archive/PA Images

Analysis suggesting bookmakers are overstating the financial impact of gaming machine limits has been backed by Sir Robin Wales.

The Mayor of Newham said he welcomed research by NERA, the independent economic consultancy, that showed betting shops were “scaremongering” over potential restrictions to fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Under proposals by the government, high-street bookies with FOBTs may have to reduce the £100 stake placed by punters every 20 seconds to £20.

Sir Robin Wales, who has long supported tighter regulation of FOBTs, said bookmakers were wrong in saying the changes would result in economic penalties for the industry.

He said: “This research illustrates that significant FOBT stake reduction to £20 would not result in the rafts of job losses and shop closures that the bookmaking industry have claimed, but are unwilling to substantiate by publishing their evidence base.

If bookmakers are truly worried about the livelihood and welfare of their employees they should first look at their own employment practices, often single-staffing in betting shops makes their own staff vulnerable to incidents of violence as a result.”

At present, there are 84 bookies in Newham, which works out at six for every square mile. East Ham’s High Street North has 12 betting shops alone.

NERA, which calculated the potential impact of stake reductions on FOBTs to £20 and £10, said that even in the event of betting shop closures, 3.5 jobs could be created for every one lost.

Its report was commissioned by bacta, the trade association for the UK amusement and gaming machine sector.

The company’s CEO, John White, said: “This research shows that most of what we are hearing from bookmakers is scaremongering, designed to shore up a status-quo that puts consumers at risk.

A substantial reduction to the maximum stake on FOBTs is not only necessary for player protection, but possible without leaving a serious economic imprint on the betting shop sector.”

The government’s review of gaming machine stakes and prizes is expected to be announced in the near future.

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