In GBGC’s April 2017 newsletter last month it was said there was every likelihood that gambling would feature in some of the 2017 UK General Election manifestos.
The Labour party has included the following passage on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs):
“We will reduce the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals from £100 to £2. These highly addictive machines in bookmakers across the country have become a problem for many families and communities. They allow players to gamble away £100 every 20 seconds, encouraging people to chase their losses. Labour will also legislate to increase the delay in between spins on these games in order to reduce the addictive nature of the games.”
Similarly, the Liberal Democrats have stated:
“We will grant new powers to local authorities to protect high streets and consumers by reducing the proliferation of betting shops and capping the maximum amount able to be bet on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) at one time to £2”.
This comes despite the betting sector having taken a number of initiatives to promote responsible gambling. These include a Code of Practice, self-exclusion schemes, and the introduction of a Player Awareness System.
In October 2016 the Government announced a review of gaming machines and called for evidence to be submitted by 4 December 2016. The results were to be published in Spring 2017 but the snap General Election has caused a delay.
It is surprising that the Labour Party seems to have taken on board the wishes of the All Party Parliamentary Group report of FOBTs when the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards said the report breached standards in four areas (paragraphs 21, 22, 23, and 25 of the Guide to the Rules on all-Party Parliamentary Groups). The cross-party group was backed by casino operators and BACTA, the trade association for amusement arcades.
The standards commissioner Kathryn Hudson drew attention to four breaches in the report. She said the breaches were “at the less serious end of the spectrum” and the group’s chairman has apologised and made a promise to rectify them.
The group did not record attendance at its meetings nor did it take proper minutes at its meetings. There was also a failure to print a disclaimer in the report it published stating that it was not an official House of Commons publication. The group was also not open enough about the assistance – as a donor of a benefit in kind – it received from the public affairs company Interel.