OPINION: Support review into gambling machine

PUBLISHED: 08:15 23 August 2017


A year ago, I wrote here about what the BBC’s Panorama called ‘the scandal of the century’ – the proliferation of Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals, dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of the betting world.

There are more than 70 FOBT machines in High Street North, East Ham, alone, even though they have been proved to be linked to suicides, debt and money laundering.

This is not about a flutter on the horses or a couple of quid on West Ham. It is about addictive machines that damage families and have driven people to despair. Gamblers can lose as much as £100 every 20 seconds.

An average FOBT makes £53,000 a year and, with four to a shop, that’s £212,000 profit. In Newham alone, it is estimated that at least £18million is lost on them every year.

The Mayor of Newham has been at the forefront of efforts to try to limit the damage of FOBTs, but this is not a party issue.

Last year, Theresa May announced a government review. All parties seemed to agree on proposals to cut the maximum stake to £2 and increase the delay between spins to offset the addictive nature of these machines. But now it is reported that the review has been kicked into the long grass because the Treasury is worried about losing tax receipts.

FOBTs may work for the bookmakers and the taxman, but not for the individuals and families that suffer. Anyone who cares about the wellbeing of the people of Newham will support the proposals to limit the damage. Raising tax should never depend on the exploitation of vulnerable people – in Newham or anywhere else.

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