Sunday, 19 January 2014

FW: FOBTs take main stage in Parliament as debate heats up


Opposition debate sparks fresh FOBT controversy

January 2014 became a landmark month for the Stop the FOBTs Campaign, as Labour supporters chose to debate the subject of FOBTs and licensing for the party's first opposition debate of the New Year.

In a heated exchange, Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport Clive Efford put forward the Labour Party's concerns, inviting comment and debate from a number of concerned MPs from all political parties.

As well as concerns about a lack of power for local authorities to curb the spread of betting shops on the UK's high streets, a number of MPs also raised personal accounts of constituents who have fallen into the downward spiral of addiction and problem gambling as a result of playing FOBTs.

Unfortunately the resulting vote did not go in Labour's favour, with the motion being defeated with a majority of 82 votes. However, the debate did raise some important questions and some interesting comments from Minister Helen Grant. She told the gathered MPs that the future of FOBTs was "unresolved" and bookmakers must take immediate action to increase protection for players.

You can watch the debate in full by clicking below.

Labour leader questions Cameron on FOBTs at PMQs

It was an action-packed day in Parliament last week, as Labour Leader Ed Miliband also raised the issue of FOBTs at Prime Minister's Questions. In response to his concerns about the spread and addictiveness of the gambling machines, Mr Cameron said: "This is a problem, it does need looking at, we have a review under way, frankly we are clearing up a situation that was put in place under the last government, but I think if we work together we can probably sort it out."

Urging councils to make full use of the existing powers, Mr Cameron said: "I'm not arguing that is job done, there may well be more to do, but we have a review under way."

But Mr Miliband argued that local authorities needed more powers. He said: "One in three calls to the gambling helpline is about these machines and they are clustered in deprived areas. For example, there are 348 in one of the most deprived areas of the country, Newham… Local communities believe they already have the evidence – shouldn't they be given the power to decide whether they want these machines or whether they don't want these machines?"

You can watch the full exchange here.

Labour support goes from strength to strength

Opposition towards FOBTs from the Labour party has gone from strength to strength in recent weeks, but it really kicked off just before Christmas, when Party Leader Ed Miliband visited Kilburn to look into the damaging effects of the high-stake, high-speed machines. He even met with our very own Matt Zarb-Cousin to chat about the impact of FOBT addiction and the pressure it puts on families and communities.

More councils table motions to curb FOBTs

With high-profile councils like Liverpool, Fareham, Brighton and Preston all tabling motions to restrict the spread of FOBTs throughout 2013, the year ahead looks to be just as positive with many more councils up and down the country planning similar action.

Manchester, Wigan, Hull, Southampton, Lewisham and Southend are just some of the towns and cities gearing up to Stop the FOBTs this year. Why not get in touch to talk about tabling a council motion in your area?

FOBTs in the news

The Christmas period was certainly no let-up for Campaign activity – with coverage in every national newspaper throughout December and early January. Highlights include this article in the Observer, a great piece in the Guardian explaining why FOBTs do not belong on the High Street, news of bookmakers' shares being hit in the Independent, a report from the BBC following the opposition debate, an awkward appearance from the ABB on Channel 4 News, a splash in the Daily Mail following Ed Miliband's PMQ and Campaign Consultant Matt Zarb-Cousin appearing on both Radio 4's Today programme and Al Jazeera. Meanwhile, there was even an admission from the Labour party that they had 'dropped the ball' when it came to FOBTs and another investigative-style article in the Guardian.
For more news stories about FOBTs, please visit the News and Events section of our website.