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Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

Volume 569: debated on Thursday 31 October 2013

The Government have conducted a review of stake and prize limits for all categories of gaming machine, including fixed odds betting terminals. We took advice from the Gambling Commission and the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board as part of our review, which was published earlier this month.

The Minister will be aware that last week, in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East (Mr Watson), the Prime Minister said he would look again at the damaging effects of fixed odds betting terminals. When will this review begin, and what form will it take?

This is, of course, a very serious issue. The future of B2 gaming machines is currently unresolved, but further work has already started.

The Minister will be aware that the Kent Messenger recently reported that gamblers across Kent and the Medway lost £33 million on FOBTs, including £1.6 million in my constituency and £1.9 million in her own constituency. Does she agree, therefore, that we need to look properly at the devastating impact that these high-risk, high-stake machines are having on our constituents?

I remember reading that article in the Kent Messenger. I would emphasise to my hon. Friend that there is certainly no green light for FOBTs; we will be reviewing their existence and functioning very carefully.

13. The stakes taken by these machines are so great that they have become a magnet for money laundering gains. Coral, the bookmakers, has recently been exposed for taking £900,000 of laundered money. The Serious Organised Crime Agency thinks the problem so great that bookmakers should be included in money laundering directives from the EU, which are currently under review. What is the Minister’s view? (900830)

As I keep repeating, my view is that these machines raise serious issues, but we need to take a fair and decent approach to the issue of problem gambling, while not over-regulating bookmakers. We therefore need to do our research and look at the matter in detail so that we can come up with a balanced, sensible and fair way forward.

Does the Minister agree that one effect of allowing B2 gaming machines in bookmakers is that they help to maintain the viability of these offices, providing employment for local people and an environment where those with a gambling problem are more likely to be identified and pointed in the direction of the help they need than if they were to sit at home gambling on the internet, where, incidentally, they could gamble any amount they liked?

My hon. Friend makes a fair point. As I have just explained, we need to take a proper, balanced and decent approach. We do not want to over-regulate bookmakers, but it is a priority for the Government to protect the vulnerable.