International edition
September 27, 2020

Prime Minister Cameron pledges FOBT debate

UK Government rejects calls for tighter controls on FOBTs

(UK).- The UK Coalition Government has rejected a motion for local councils to be given the power to limit the number of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in their individual constituencies. In a debate in parliament this week, Labour’s motion to give local authorities powers to restrict the growth of fixed odds betting terminals, Category B2, was defeated.

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he motion, which was put forward by the Labour party on Wednesday,  was defeated in a vote in the House of Commons last night with the government winning by 314 to 232, a majority of 82.

Labour had hoped to gain the support of some MPs in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition parties, but the opposition was left disappointed by the vote.
 
Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour party, had first raised the motion earlier in the day during a session of Prime Minister’s Questions, arguing that FOBTs were “spreading like an epidemic”.
 
Despite the vote, Prime Minister David Cameron said during the earlier session that he did “absolutely share the concerns” of Miliband over the spread of FOBTs in high streets across the UK.
 
Cameron said he welcomed the opposition day debate on the issue and added that there were “problems in the betting and gambling industry”. However, Cameron said that the government would wait for a key report on the machines to be published before taking action.
 
The initial results of the report are expected in spring, but the full report will not be available until autumn. Cameron also said that he was keen to work together in order to address the problems of FOBTs, which allow people to wager £100 every 20 seconds.
 
The Prime Minister also claimed that the Labour party was responsible for the spread of the machines, explaining that they were “introduced in 2001 after the [last] government had relaxed gambling regulations”. Labour hit back by saying FOBTs were “always on probation”.
 
In an attempt to combat the rise of FOBTs, Miliband proposed the motion to hand councils more power to reduce the number of FOBTs in betting shops, an amount currently limited to four, and to increase the time between placing bets.
 
In the later debate, Culture Minister Helen Grant told MPs that the future of FOBTs remained unresolved and it was down to bookmakers to take action in order to protect players.
 
Echoing Cameron’s words, she said that the government was awaiting the findings of the report into “how [FOBTS] are used and the real impact on players” before deciding on appropriate action. Despite the motion being rejected, a number of Coalition MPs accepted Labour’s claims about the machines.
 
Zac Goldsmith, Conservative MP for London, posted a message on Twitter that said it was “hard to disagree” with the motion.
 
Tracey Crouch, Conservative MP for Chatham and Aylesford, also said that the late publishing of the report would be “too long to wait”.
 
Jim Leech, Liberal Democrat MP for Manchester Withington, added that if the industry does not implement “player protection” measures by March of this year, then the government should reduce stakes and prizes on FOBTs.
 
Last month Culture Secretary Maria Miller ruled out calls to dramatically reduce the stakes and prizes on the machines, and opted to keep the maximum stake at £100 and the maximum payout at £500. This decision was followed by a vow to band the machines by opposition leader Ed Milliband should he be elected to government.
 
The government has already commissioned a detailed study of the machines, which is due to present its findings next autumn, but the pressure to introduce restrictions is on, and changes may be pushed through before then.

The Labour Party is leading the Commons debate on the issue this afternoon, along with its proposal to give local councils more power to stop the spread of retail betting shops in their regions, something which prominent Conservatives like London mayor Boris Johnson supports.

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