Tele column – 27th April 2018

Tele readers will be aware I’ve been campaigning on the issue of gambling addiction and gambling related harm for some time. As vice-chair of the All-party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) I’ve heard testimony and evidence from individuals whose lives have been adversely affected by these machines.

The losses people can occur gambling and using FOBT machines can be devastating and leave individuals and ultimately their families with large debts which impact their lives. This is why alongside colleagues on the APPG we have called on the Department for Culture to introduce a maximum unit stake on FOBTs to be £2 per spin. Research shows that FOBT problem gamblers could be imposing a cost of £1.5 billion on themselves, their families and their wider social networks. The report published by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr), found that those on lower incomes or in deprived areas are the main beneficiaries of a reduction to a £2 stake.

Alongside the Chair of the APPG on FOBTs, Carolyn Harris MP and Iain Duncan Smith MP we have lobbied the Gambling Commission, Secretary of State for Culture Matt Hancock MP and also wrote to HM Treasury to ensure they do not block any stake reduction to £2. The majority of MP’s on both sides of the House and in the Lords are in favour of a stake reduction. Therefore, I was pleased to read reports, earlier this week that HM Treasury have backed down in their opposition to reducing the maximum unit stake to £2. The reasoning for opposition was over how lost taxes would be replaced. It appears an announcement will be forthcoming and it’s hoped the hard-work of everyone involved will lead to a stake reduction.

However, a stake reduction on FOBTs is only a step in the right direction and I will continue to campaign for further action to address gambling related harm. Some of the areas of focus include the issue of young people and gambling; compulsory levy from bookmakers to GambleAware charity; the creation of a problem gambling clinic in Scotland and more inspections of gaming/gambling premises.