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House of Commons Hansard
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01 May 2014
Volume 579
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4. What assessment he has made of the effect of online gambling on vulnerable adults with a gambling addiction. [903808]

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Problem gamblers tend to participate in a wide range of gambling rather than one particular form. The Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill will allow consistent consumer protection for all British-based users of online gambling products.

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I welcome the fact that the Government have now agreed to put in place a one-stop shop system for self-exclusion. Will the Minister confirm when she expects that system to be put in place to protect gamblers?

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I expect it to be put in place within the next six months.

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Will the Minister explain the conflict between all this concern now about problem gambling online, and the nanny state regulations that she introduced yesterday—egged on by the Labour party—on fixed odds betting terminals, which will only lead to people moving their gambling from a controlled environment in betting shops to similar games and machines with unlimited stakes and prizes on the internet? Surely the proposals she put forward yesterday will only make online gambling problems worse.

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I do not agree with my hon. Friend. The proposals put forward yesterday were a very sensible response from a responsible Government who want to assist local communities and protect highly vulnerable people. I believe that nothing more nor less would have been appropriate.

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Yesterday, the Minister carried out a U-turn on online gambling and FOBT machines. She has accepted our call for councils to be given planning powers to restrict the clustering of betting shops, but she has done nothing for those who want to respond to local concerns about the numbers of FOBT machines they already have. We welcome the fact that after more than two years of refusing to act, the Government have finally accepted our proposals. She also announced a £50 limit on stakes on FOBT machines, which she relies on the betting industry to impose. What evidence has she seen that convinces her that a £50 limit will deal with problem gambling? She is aware of research being conducted by NatCen. If that says that the £50 limit should be lowered, will she act?

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The hon. Gentleman raises a lot of issues and I will do my best to deal with them in the time available. The measures will certainly put an end to unsupervised easy cash-based staking above £50, allowing continued use of machines while ensuring greater opportunities for supervision and protection. The measures are targeted, reasonable and proportionate, and completely justified on a precautionary basis. We have made no change to the stake and prize. The U-turn is absolute nonsense. The shadow Minister knows that I have declared continually that there is no green light for FOBTs, and our package of reforms has been carefully considered. In my opinion, our proposals are targeted and proportionate; his proposals were knee-jerk and impractical.

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I invite the Minister to take no lessons from the Opposition who are just opportunistic about FOBTs—in 2000 there were none, but in 2010 there was an explosion of 30,000 FOBT machines. The packages yesterday to protect communities are welcome in my constituency, which has seen a saturation-level of FOBTs, particularly in Palmers Green. Will she also consider the introduction of a cumulative impact test for licence applications? Is it part of the package? That would assist communities that want to take back control of this issue.

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I know that my hon. Friend has considerable concerns about FOBTs, not just in his constituency but around the country. We will see strengthened play protections that will help to deal with the risks of FOBTs, wider self-exclusion and more intervention. I am happy to have a chat with him about the issue of impact assessments that he has raised.