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Volume 556: debated on Thursday 10 January 2013

10. Whether her Department has commissioned research into the effect of fixed-odds betting terminals on the prevalence of problem gambling; and if she will make a statement. (136085)

The Government are aware of the concerns that have been raised about these types of gaming machines and are committed to looking at the evidence around B2 machines and problem gambling. In addition, the Responsible Gambling Trust has recently announced the largest programme of academic research into gaming machines ever undertaken in Britain, which should provide a much better understanding of problem gambling behaviour.

I welcome what the Minister has said. We need an independent look at the seriousness of fixed-odds betting terminals in our country and their prevalence in independent bookmakers. May I ask him to look at the matter with urgency, and not to move forward quickly with the recommendations of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, which would create an open season for fixed-odds betting terminals across the country?

I entirely acknowledge the concerns that the right hon. Gentleman puts so well. A response to the Committee’s report is due shortly—clearly, once we have that, I will be in a position to say more—but I acknowledge his concerns and the need for proper evidence to underpin our response.

I share some of the concerns expressed by the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), and I urge those who have heard reports about what the Select Committee said to look at the report itself. The report did not say that there should be widespread liberalisation; it said that in specific areas local authorities that had concerns about the number of betting shops could consider whether they might be met by some flexibility in the numbers. I specifically agree with the right hon. Gentleman on the desperate need for more empirical evidence and research in this area. That must be addressed as a priority before we start taking decisions.