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Betting

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 9 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport whether he plans to produce a response to the conclusions of the working group on regulation and administration of on-course betting before publication of the consultation document that he referred to in his speech in Westminster Hall on 4 July 2007, Official Report, column 259WH; and if he will make a statement. (153427)

My Department does not intend to produce a separate response to the conclusions of the working group, which are presently out to consultation on the National Joint Pitch Council's website www.njpc-ltd.co.uk. The future administrative arrangements for on-course bookmaking are for the bookmaking and racing industries to agree between themselves; it would not be appropriate for Government to favour one alternative above another. However, we understand the importance of those working in the bookmaking industry being able to comment on what is proposed, and so my officials have worked with the group to ensure that its conclusions are expressed in a logical and transparent format.

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what assessment he has made of the effect of the Gambling Act 2005 on bookmakers' on-course pitch positions; what recent discussions he has had with the Racecourse Association on this topic; and if he will make a statement. (154441)

As I indicated during the Westminster Hall debate on this subject on 4 July 2007, Official Report, columns 237-60WH, and subsequently when I wrote on 25 July to hon. Members with an interest in this matter, the Government do not accept that the Gambling Act 2005 has had a direct effect on bookmakers' on-course pitch positions. No property has changed hands under the Act itself, nor does the Act abolish the National Pitch Rules or the National Joint Pitch Council. It remains open for racecourses, individually or collectively, to use the next five years to negotiate a commercial arrangement which is satisfactory to both sides.

I have had no discussions with the Racecourse Association on this topic, but intend to meet the Association and on-course bookmakers' representatives shortly.

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) how many fixed odds betting terminals are currently in use in England; (156233)

(2) what Government policy is on the availability of fixed odds betting terminals; and if he will make a statement.

Under the Gambling Act fixed odds betting terminals have been classified as category B2 gaming machines. The Gambling Commission’s annual report 2006-07 estimates that there are 24,500 such machines located in licensed betting premises.

As a result of the Gambling Act 2005 these machines are now strictly regulated alongside other gaming machines for the first time. They are required to abide by strict limits on stakes and prizes (£100 and £500 respectively). The machines also have to comply with regulations, set by the Department, controlling the circumstances in which they are made available for use, and with technical standards set by the Gambling Commission. These include requirements to display information about where customers may obtain advice about gambling problems and a minimum game cycle duration.

B2 gaming machines may only be made available in the heavily regulated environment of casinos and licensed betting premises, both of which may be accessed by adults only. Casinos may offer a maximum of 20 gaming machines of up to category B1 and licensed betting premises a maximum of four gaming machines of up to category B2.