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Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

Volume 616: debated on Thursday 3 November 2016

2. What assessment her Department has made of the effectiveness of regulation of fixed odds betting terminals. (907003)

Mr Speaker, you will recall that before I went on maternity leave I announced that the triannual review into stakes and prizes would happen this year, and I am pleased to say this promise has been kept. The review was published last week and will include a close look at fixed odds betting terminals.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Will she look carefully at the merits of reducing the maximum bet per spin for FOBTs from £100 to £2, and at the important contribution that could make to significantly reducing problem gambling and the problems families suffer as a result?

I am sure the House would not want me to prejudge the outcome of the review, but clearly the call for evidence will look at the stakes and prizes of all gaming machines, and I have no doubt that the Department will receive many representations on those of FOBTs.

The whole House is concerned about FOBTs, which are the crack cocaine of gambling. It is possible to spend £100 every 20 seconds, or £300 every minute, on them. They are affecting our constituents, and people have a real concern about them. I welcome the fact that we are going to have a review, but when will the Government also deal with the Gambling Commission, which seems to have sat behind this and allowed it to happen, alongside the inaction of the previous Government?

The review is looking at all stakes and prizes relating to gaming machines. The issue with FOBTs has clearly grown since the liberalisation of gambling, which was of course brought in by the Labour party when it was in government. The issue blights individuals and communities and I am very passionate about it. I look forward to the review concluding.

Perhaps it would be topical to point out that the term “crack cocaine of gambling” was first coined by Donald Trump in the 1980s. He was talking about video keno games affecting his casinos. Perhaps the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) will start chanting “Lock her up” if we keep quoting Donald Trump. Can the Minister tell us what the point is of reducing the stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals in betting shops when people can go straight on to the internet and play exactly the same games with unlimited stakes and unlimited prizes?

I welcome my hon. Friend’s comments on these issues. He will of course be entitled to reply to the call for evidence on gaming machines. Online gaming is obviously an area of increasing concern that we keep under regular review.

11. The Responsible Gambling Trust has made it clear that at least 37% of people using fixed-odds betting terminals can be deemed to be problem gamblers—[Interruption.] I rather think that the trust knows more than the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) about this. What are the Government going to do to deal with the problem of vulnerable people gambling? (907012)

The official statistic is that 1% of the adult population have a problem with gambling, but that still equates to 600,000 people, and in my view that is 600,000 too many.