Thursday, 7 November 2013

Campaign update: Prime Minister finally addresses issue of FOBTs

News for Graham

FOBTs high on the agenda in House of Commons

Both the Prime Minister and the new Minister responsible for gambling, Helen Grant, faced questions on the subject of FOBTs from MPs this month. David Cameron was the first to tackle the subject during Prime Minister's Questions – vowing to take a 'proper look' at FOBTs when asked by Labour MP Tom Watson whether he would consider banning them, as is the case in Ireland. You can watch the exchange in full here.

Next up it was the turn of the newly appointed Minister at the Department for Culture Media and Sport. Helen Grant was questioned by MPs from all parties on the impact of FOBTs on local communities, as well as their possible links with problem gambling. She assured the House that there is certainly no 'green light' for fixed odds betting terminals, and that the DCMS will be reviewing their existence and their functioning 'very carefully'. However, she failed to answer questions from Tom Watson MP on the recent money laundering scandal involving Coral betting shops. A video of the full debate can be found on our website.

FOBTs a growing concern in Grant's constituency

New Minister Helen Grant isn't just being faced with tough questions on FOBTs in Parliament – but in her home constituency of Maidstone and the Weald, too. Recent articles in the Kent Messenger used Campaign for Fairer Gambling statistics to reveal that £33 million was lost across Kent and the Medway, as well as an article which criticised the government for not doing enough to protect gamblers in Kent. Perhaps with the issue so close to home the new Minister will be forced to act sooner rather than later.

Urge your MP to support these Early Day Motions

Supportive MPs such as Tom Watson and David Lammy are also busy tabling Early Day Motions (EDMs) to try and raise the FOBT issue among backbench MPs. Tom Watson's recent EDM calls for a reduction in the maximum stake on the machines, which have been dubbed the "crack cocaine of gambling." He has also written an article for the Huffington Post in which he describes his disbelief that the Government hasn't yet acted on the issue.

Meanwhile, long-term supporter David Lammy has also raised an EDM which focusses on the safety of betting shop staff – particularly with regard to the practice of lone-staffing. Both EDMs are vitally important to raise the profile of FOBTs and their associated issues within Parliament – so please encourage your MPs to sign both motions. You can contact your MP, raise the issue with them and urge them to sign the EDMs on our website.

Council's momentum building to restrict FOBTs

Councillor Vincent Stops from Hackney Council tabled a motion to support the Campaign last week and received unanimous, cross-party support. In Liverpool, Councillor Nick Small and former Lord Mayor Sharon Sullivan are leading the charge to get the addictive roulette machines banned from the city entirely. If you're a Councillor concerned about FOBTs, please get in touch as we would be very willing to advise on the most effective means of taking action.

Landmark case sees betting shop rejected in Scotland

A landmark licence refusal in the Highlands could well pave the way for other councils attempting to combat the proliferation of betting shops on the UK's high streets. The local community rejected an application from William Hill to open a bookies in the Merkinch area of Inverness, on the grounds that it would be based opposite a charity for people with drugs and alcohol addictions. Campaign Consultant Adrian Parkinson hailed it a 'powerful message to bookmakers' and added that 'this is what councils should be doing if they don't want more of these machines'. You can read the full story here.

Who is the "Myth Maker" of the ABB?

The government's recent Triennial Review decision caused some controversy – but it seems some were more satisfied with the result than others. The Association of British Bookmakers' Chairman Dirk Vennix 'welcomed' the decision – prompting the Campaign to dub him the "Myth Maker" of the ABB because of his reluctance to share all of the facts. The Campaign also set to work debunking some of the myths presented in the Gambling Commission's letter to the DCMS regarding data collation. Are the cracks beginning to show?

FOBTs in the news

It's been a busy month for the Campaign with articles appearing all over the press. The Hull Daily Mail reported on a case which involved a mentally disabled man gambling away his benefits, Campaign Founder Derek Webb wrote a guest column for Gambling Insider, the Bournemouth Daily Echo claimed the town had reached "saturation point" when it came to betting shops and the Weston Mercury called for a crackdown after Campaign figures revealed punters had gambled £63 million.