High-stakes gambling machine crackdown rejected
Published: 11th Jan 2013 03:42:19
The government has ruled out a crackdown on high-stakes gambling machines from betting shops despite warnings about their addictive nature.
The machines can accept stakes of up to £100 and offer prizes of £500.
Culture minister Hugh Robertson said there was little evidence they caused serious problems despite an MP calling them the "crack cocaine" of gambling.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling said the casino-style machines were often used by people with gambling problems.
In a Commons debate on Thursday, Mr Robertson rejected the idea of creating new laws to restrict the machines or the betting shops where they are located.
The minister said he would only change the law if there was new evidence.
A recent Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report recommended that local authorities should be able to allow bookmakers to operate more than the current limit of four high-stakes gambling machines per shop.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling said the machines should be banned from betting shops on the High Street with immediate effect.
The organisation, backed by psychologist Professor Jim Orford, said they were too addictive and should be restricted to casinos only.
Matthew Zarb-Cousin, a former gambling addict now with the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, told the BBC that the maximum £100 stake encouraged dangerous gambling patterns.
He said a maximum stake of £2 should be introduced, effectively banning the high-stakes machines from prominent locations.
However, Mr Robertson said the government would be prepared to bring in new laws to clamp down on the spread of betting shops.
Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins said problem gambling "ruined lives and destroyed families" and called on the government to take a tougher stance.
He said: "The most addictive form of gambling is on fixed-terminal gambling machines. They are indeed described as the crack cocaine of problem gambling. Is the government seriously concerned about gambling addiction and when are they going to address the problem?"
In reply, Mr Robertson said the Responsible Gambling Trust was carrying out an investigation into the use of fruit machines and problem gambling.
But he said any new laws would be based on research not anecdotal evidence.
"This is one of those quite tricky areas where common sense suggests there is a major problem but there is a lack of evidence to back this up," he said.
"I very much hope that the major research project that is being undertaken will give us the necessary evidence that we need and absolutely, once that is proved, the government will act."
Culture committee chairman John Whittingdale said he "shared the concerns" about the machines and there was a "desperate need" for more research.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2013. High-stakes gambling machine crackdown rejected. [Online] (Updated 11 Jan 2013)
Available at: http://www.manchesterwired.co.uk/news.php/1474747-High-stakes-gambling-machine-crackdown-rejected [Accessed 11th May 2013]
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