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Fixed odds betting review will ‘protect vulnerable people from harm’

Councils have applauded the government’s decision to review fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT) as a move which could protect those vulnerable to gambling addictions.

The machines currently allow users to spend up to £100 in one game but new legislation would limit that deposit to somewhere between £2 and £50.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board said the move would be “extremely positive” in protecting vulnerable people. However, he urged the government to choose the lower limit of £2 as the final outcome.

Blackburn explained: “Not only are £100 maximum stakes significantly out of line with maximum amount that can be waged on other gaming machines, but there is credible evidence that these machines may be particularly addictive and can harm vulnerable players – for example, through spiralling debt - as well as being linked to anti-social behaviour and crime in betting shops.

“However, regulating gaming machines is about more than just stakes, and we urge government to give councils powers to prevent the opening of new betting shops in areas where there are already multiple premises.

“A new cumulative impact test would give councils the power to veto new bookmakers’ in areas already saturated by betting shops.

“Government also needs to look at curbs on the volume of gambling advertising, particularly where it is accessible by children.”

The Association of British Bookmakers said this kind of action would not fix the issue because problem gamblers would find somewhere else to continue their habit.

The review will also involve consultation on protecting online players, changing advertising rules to protect vulnerable people and ensuring access for under-18s to gambling content on social media is restricted.

Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of complaints from councils and gambling addiction groups on the long-term dangers of FOBTs. In fact, in 2016 the LGA called on the government to specifically reduce the stakes available on these machines.

Top image: Welcomia

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