Fixed Odds Betting Terminals Become Controversial
The gambling machine dubbed the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ was launched back in the 1990s. It sold for £100 million, and made its inventors, ex-bookie Steve Frater and Walter Grubmuller, wealthy men, but since then these terminals have become highly controversial.
Online slots are popular throughout the country and rarely criticized. So, what is it about the fixed odds betting terminals that makes them so controversial? Well, for starters, with a bet amounting to as much as £100 a spin, a punter can lose all of the £100 in just 20 seconds. That amount is for some people an entire week’s wages. Charities have reported the people hooked on these fixed odds betting terminals, FOBTs, are the poorest people, and currently there are 33,345 of these terminals in operation.
Can the FOBTs be Stopped from Swallowing £100 in 20 Seconds?
A proposed law has been submitted to Parliament by Liberal Democrat peer Tim Clement-Jones that would put a stop to the FOBTs ability to swallow £100 in a mere 20 seconds. The Bill would achieve this by setting a £2 maximum stake on these machines. However, for this to happen the Parliament must allot time for all the law’s stages to be discussed, pass and become law. However, David Cameron refuses to allow time for the law's consideration and is a major cause for a threat of its not being accepted into law.
Slot games are fun for gamblers, but the FOBTs are financially dangerous to players Lord Clement-Jones claims, “FOBTs are highly addictive and can cause untold harm.” He added, “If the Government is serious about helping people with gambling addiction, they should give my Bill more time to ensure it can be properly debated.”
Last month, when the proposed Bill’s first reading was received in the House of Lords, Dr, Dan Boucher of Christian charity CARE pleaded for the Bill’s consideration by Parliament stating, “This is an issue that now requires action. It can no longer be ignored. We very much hope the Government will recognize that something must be done and give time for this Bill.”
The Sunday People has received widespread support for its campaign to limit the maximum stake to £2. In addition, the campaign asks for the number of machines in betting shops to be limited to one reducing the current number of four.
Currently, there are as many as 34,000 of these “crack cocaine of gambling” FOBTs in bookies throughout the country. According to the Sunday People, bookies are making a greater profit from the FOBTs than all other betting forms combined. Most likely, bookies don’t make as great a profit from slots, but gamblers can still have a great time playing slots for fun.
The figures of the Gambling Commission illustrate that 52 percent of gambling returns are due to fixed odds betting terminals. The horse and dog racing, numbers games and football betting combined are netting a total of £1.4 billion, whereas just FOBTs are netting £1.6 billion each year.
Opposition to Unlimited FOBT Machines Grows
The Labour candidate running for London Mayor, MP Sadiq Khan, has joined the campaign of the Sunday People to limit the maximum stake and the number of FOBT machines in betting shops. Khan refers to the administering of laws to limit FOBT machines by saying, “They are blighting communities and tearing at the fabric of society. We must control the growth of betting shops before even more damage is done to our nation’s health and wellbeing”. Khan further argued, “The change in the law that allowed this to happen was far from Labour’s finest hour. The party needs to hold up its hands and admit it.”
The former Sports Minister Sir Hugh Robertson who at one time was responsible for the policies of gambling has also joined the campaign asking for the limiting of stakes of fixed odds machines. In addition, as the representative of amusement arcades, Simon Storer, a member of the British Amusement Catering Trade Association, has also joined the campaign by saying, “I support the Sunday People’s important campaign. Until stakes are reduced, the problem they cause won’t go away.” He further explained, “No other country in the developed world allows £100 stake machines in easily accessible locations.”