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MPs slam UK Gambling Commission over failure to cut FOBT stakes

Fixed-odds betting terminals

Several members of the British parliament have expressed disappointment at the Gambling Commission’s failure to cut fixed-odds betting stakes to £2.

The angered MPs have long campaigned against roulette-style gaming across UK bookmakers, claiming that fixed-odd betting terminals (FOBTs) are heavily linked to problem gambling.

The UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport made a review of the Gambling Commission’s recommendation that bets on FOBTs be reduced from £100 to between £2 and £50, but opponents say £50 is still too high and want a £30 maximum.

Commission renews commitment to lower stakes

Labor’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said it was disappointing that the Gambling Commission “caved in to industry pressure” and failed to act on curbing problem gambling.

He warned ministers to not sit idle and watch the Commission put gambling addicts at risk.

“These machines are the heart of the UK’s hidden epidemic of problem gambling,” Watson said.

“The government must cut the stake to £2 on all FOBT machines, including the highly addictive roulette-style games.”

Carolyn Harris, the Labor MP who is the chairperson of the parliamentary committee investigating FOBTs, also expressed her displeasure with the Gambling Commission.

She insisted it was the moral duty of the government to ensure that casino players were protected from themselves when it came to staking bets on FOBTs.

The Gambling Commission, however, says it is committed to protecting gamblers, hence the recommendation for a £2 limit in the first place.

It averred that it also pushed for “tracked play” – a system whereby machines identify and monitor the betting patterns of individuals, thus flagging problem gambling behaviours.

Cutting FOBT stakes “doesn’t go far enough”

According to Neil McArthur, chief executive officer of the Gambling Commission, his agency is all out to recommend and implement measures that would keep gamblers out of harm’s way at the machines.

He said the commission had recommended measures that aimed to reduce the risks of harm and provide solutions through tighter controls for online gambling.

“In our judgment, a stake cut for fixed-odds betting terminals alone doesn’t go far enough to protect vulnerable people,” McArthur said.

“That is why we have recommended a stake cut plus a comprehensive package of other measures to protect consumers.”

Matt Hancock, the culture secretary, is said to favour cutting betting stakes to £2 but is soft-pedalling for the sake of the Treasury, which derives a significant amount of its £700 million revenue from FOBTs and other gambling streams.