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Gaming Machines

Volume 598: debated on Wednesday 15 July 2015

6. What assessment he has made of the potential effects in Scotland of the devolution of decisions on varying the number of applications for new gaming machines where the maximum stake is above £10. (900936)

The Scotland Bill will give Scottish Ministers the power to vary the number of high-stakes gaming machines for new betting premises in Scotland. It is now for those Minsters to set out their policy intent.

Fixed odds betting terminals are a plague on poor communities—they are known as the crack cocaine of gambling. Why is it acceptable for the Government to devolve that power to Scotland but not to local authorities like mine, which, along with 93 other authorities, has tabled a request for action from the Department for Communities and Local Government?

I know that the hon. Gentleman feels very strongly abut this issue, and I know that he and, indeed, others tabled amendments relating to it during the Committee stage of the Bill. I am definitely reflecting on it.

Horseracing depends on its income from betting shops—that is, the money that they pay for picture rights. Has the Secretary of State made any assessment of the impact that this decision will have on funding for horseracing?

The view of the all-party Smith commission was that the proliferation of betting terminals was not good for Scotland, that it needed to be dealt with, and that the Scottish Government were best placed to deal with it. That is the measure that we are implementing.

The draft clause would provide a power to restrict the number of FOBTs only when a new betting premise licence was being sought. The Law Society of Scotland has proposed that the clause should be amended to include existing and new premises. Will the Minister at least concede that to the Scottish Parliament?

I think I said in my earlier answer that we had not reached those amendments on that day of the Committee stage, but I am reflecting seriously on them.