Monday, 10 March 2014

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals: My reply to the Association of British Bookmakers

Dear Dirk

Thank you for writing to me recently regarding my contribution to a Westminster Hall debate on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals as well as various other statements I have made about these machines. I note that you wrote to my local paper, the Lancashire Telegraph, so I have taken the courtesy to copy them into this letter. I have to take issue with some of the points you made.

First of all, there is no evidence that problem gambling has remained steady. The last 2 British Gambling Prevalence Surveys (2007/10) showed a 50% increase in problem gambling rates but no further survey has been carried out since 2010 so we do not know the position in the last 4 years. The recent Health Survey did not show a 40% drop in problem gambling compared to the BGPS because as it says in the actual Health Survey – it is not a comparative to a prevalence survey and it is only an England based survey.

You reference the Code for Responsible Gambling and Player Protection. However in a recent Gambling Commission investigation, Ladbrokes was found lacking in controls related to anti-money laundering and social responsibility – Parliament is still in the dark about the details of those failings. That investigation also suggested that there were similar concerns for other large bookmakers. We understand that at least one other large bookmaker is the subject of a similar investigation, which has not yet been made public. Until Parliament has been fully informed on the details of all such investigations, your representations regarding your Code could be construed as being without proper base.

If 70% of players play once a month or less and spend £7.55 in this once a month session – the mathematics quite simply do not add up to produce a £1.5 billion annual revenue stream for bookmakers. If £7.55 is the average spend then why are you introducing a £250 threshold for alerting players to their losses? Shouldn’t it be closer to the average spend of £7.55?

Additionally in your letter you use the ‘statistic’ 0.00000001667% - however, I came across a letter published in the Guardian on the 3rd of December where you quote a similar figure, to make the same point, though with three fewer zeros in it. Would you be able explain this discrepancy and clarify which is the correct figure?

I want to engage in a serious, evidence-based and reasoned debate with the ABB, as I hope we all want to see the same outcomes: a reduction in problem gambling and the negative social consequences which are caused by Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. I believe that Local Authorities are best placed to deal with many of these issues, and fully support the calls by Ed Miliband to give Local Authorities the power to create FOBT free zones.

Yours sincerely
Graham Jones MP