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Betting Shops/Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

Volume 574: debated on Thursday 30 January 2014

2. What discussions she has had with the Scottish Government on the clustering of betting shops and fixed odds betting terminals. (902284)

The Administrations for Scotland and Wales were consulted during the Government’s review of gaming machine stake and prize limits, which was published in October 2013, and my predecessor wrote to the Scottish Parliament on these issues in 2013.

The number of bookmakers in the city of Glasgow has increased by 20% in the past seven years, and millions of pounds have been lost from our poorest communities—a situation that has been replicated right across the United Kingdom. The city council has asked the Scottish Government for powers to limit the number of bookmakers in such communities, and I ask the Minister, when she next has contact with the Scottish Government, to work with them, so that there is co-ordinated action across the United Kingdom to empower local authorities with the ability to control the number of bookmakers in local areas to suit their circumstances.

I hear what the hon. Lady says, but we believe that local authorities are already so empowered. Local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales have powers to ensure public protection by using licensing conditions afforded by the Gambling Act 2005 brought in by the Government of the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman). However, planning is a devolved matter, and it is therefore for the Scottish Government to decide.

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

Will the Minister confirm that the recent independent health survey showed that considerably more of the richest people in the country played on fixed odds betting terminals than the poorest, unlike scratchcards, which 16-years-old can play and which considerably more of the poorest people in the country play than the richest? Does that not demonstrate that Labour Members’ problems with fixed odds betting terminals is not about who the money comes from to put into them, but about who the money goes to in terms of their prejudice against bookmakers? If the money from FOBTs went to good causes, would there be any campaign against FOBTs?

My hon. Friend makes a number of points, and I am not too sure which one to answer. The health survey for England made it quite clear that there is no correlation between deprivation and the clustering of betting shops on high streets.

Will the Minister comment on the recent document published by William Hill, which for the first time recognises the social problems involved with the clustering of betting shops? It quite clearly says that this could be tackled by amendments and changes to the Gambling Act 2005.

I repeat what I have just said, which is that local authorities already have powers to control clustering and to control concerns on their high streets that need to be dealt with. Article 4 directions have been very recently used by Southwark and by Barking and Dagenham, while Newham has used licensing conditions very recently.

Does my hon. Friend agree that although it is quite legitimate for people to have concerns about the number of bookmakers on our high streets, the fact is that the number of bookmakers in this country in recent years has remained relatively stable at between 8,000 and 9,000, which is well below the peak of 16,000 in the 1960s?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. We need to remember that gambling is a legal activity and is enjoyed safely by many people right across the country.

The review of category B machines affects Scotland as much as any other part of the country. In answer to a question about FOBTs from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition on 8 January, the Prime Minister said:

“We will be reporting in the spring as a result of the review that is under way, and I think it is important that we get to grips with this.”—[Official Report, 8 January 2014; Vol. 573, c. 295.]

Will the Minister confirm that we will get to grips with FOBTs in betting shops in the spring and that, most importantly, that will include a review of the £100 stake and £500 prize money maximums?

We have been getting to grips with that since we came to power in 2010. For the record, in 1997 there were no FOBTs, yet by 2010, when the Labour party was removed from power, there were more than 30,000. I am afraid that I will not take any lessons from the shadow Minister, as we are the ones who are gathering the evidence, pushing the industry to provide data and taking problem gambling seriously for the first time.