Skip to main content

Gambling Addiction

Volume 569: debated on Thursday 31 October 2013

5. What steps she is taking to collect evidence on links between gambling addiction and B2 gambling machines. (900819)

We are working with the Gambling Commission, the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board, the Responsible Gambling Trust and the industry itself to rapidly advance our understanding. Dealing with problem gambling and protecting the vulnerable are priorities for this Government.

A recent study conducted in the London borough of Newham found that 87% of gamblers believed B2 machines to be addictive, and many described them as the crack cocaine of gambling. Will the Minister assure gamblers that the Government will listen to their personal evidence and experiences, and respond to them as a matter of urgency?

I certainly can give that absolute assurance. The Government will examine all relevant research and evidence on these machines. We need to develop a proper understanding before taking action—if we decide to take action—to ensure consumer protection.

Has the Minister read the Association of British Bookmakers’ code for responsible gambling and player protection in licensed betting offices, which has been released recently? If so, does she think it goes any way to allaying the fears of many Members?

I have to be honest with the hon. Gentleman: given that I have been in the job for only about three weeks, I have not read that document page by page, but I am happy to look at it and come back to him on those issues.

I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

Is the Minister aware that virtually every new gambling product since the 1970s has been referred to as the crack cocaine of gambling and that to think that this is unique is ridiculous? Given that people can lose an unlimited amount of money within a minute on a five-furlong sprint at Epsom, does she agree that opposition to FOBTs is ridiculous, particularly given that they have a bigger rate of return for the punter—97%—than any other gambling product in any betting shop or casino, or anywhere else for that matter?

My hon. Friend raises some interesting issues, but work has begun and we will look at all the evidence and all the research. In addition, we will put pressure on the industry to develop its own harm mitigation measures. We must ensure that those measures work and that their success is evaluated.

These wicked machines are destroying lives and families in some of the poorest areas of our country. Ireland has banned these machines; should we not simply follow that example?

As I have said repeatedly, the future of these machines is not set in stone, there is no green light for fixed odds betting terminals and their future will be kept carefully under review.