‘Not good enough’: Dagenham and Rainham MP says government’s fixed-odds gambling consultation does not go far enough
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Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas insists a £2 maximum bet should be implemented immediately after claiming his constituents gambled away more than £5million on fixed-odds machines last year.
Fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), often called “the crack cocaine of gambling” by critics, currently cost up to £100 per game, meaning gambling addicts can easily blow vast sums of money quickly.
But this morning, the government announced it was launching a public consultation on plans to cut the maximum stake on FOBTs to somewhere between £50 and £2 – a move that would slash the gambling industry’s £1.8billion profits recorded last year.
Gambling minister Tracey Crouch said: “It is vital that we strike the right balance between socially responsible growth and protecting the most vulnerable, including children, from gambling-related harm.
“Given the strong evidence and public concerns about the risks of high stakes gaming machines on the high street, we are convinced of the need for action.
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“That is why today we have set out a package of proposals to ensure all consumers and wider communities are protected.
“We have seen online gambling grow rapidly and we need to protect players in this space, while also making sure those experiencing harm relating to gambling receive the help they need.”
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But Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas said the government’s consultation on FOBTs was “not good enough”.
He said: “There are 80 machines in my constituency and recent figures estimate that in the space of a year constituents using these machines lost over £5million.
“Personal debt is soaring, and with Universal Credit looming people are being forced into ever-desperate situations.
“To say I am disappointed that gambling maximums were not capped much lower today is an understatement.
“The government should have enforced a £2 maximum and been done with it. Instead we face another delay whilst they decide a figure from £2 - £50.
“These machines are highly addictive, and vulnerable residents are potentially losing hundreds every minute in an attempt to make ends meet.”
Romford MP Andrew Rosindell also welcomed the review.
He said: “ Personal debt can take a significant mental as well as financial toll on an individual, and we can always do more to prevent irresponsible gambling.
“That is why consumers are better protected under the Financial Conduct Authority’s new rules on consumer credit adverts which include risk warnings and signposting to debt advice.”
The Association of British Bookmakers said it would respond to a number of proposals set out in the government’s consultation.
A spokesman said: “Betting shops cater for over 6million customers every year and the vast majority of them gamble responsibly.
“We know that most problem gamblers use seven or more different types of gambling products, therefore there is a challenge for the whole gambling industry to move from a position where there is a stable level of problem gambling in this country to one where problem gambling rates are decreasing.”
The government’s consultation will close on January 23 next year, and can be completed at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/3XGGFP7.