Campaign is launched against ‘highly addictive’ fixed odds betting machines

Jack Martin is calling for the return of this much-loved Tom Parker milk float after it was stolen during the night

Original Tom Parker Dairies milk float is stolen

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TODAY The News is calling for restrictions on ‘highly addictive’ fixed odds betting terminals that can have a devastating impact on gamblers.

We are joining forces with Portsmouth City Council and we will lobby the government to impose a £10 per spin restriction to be placed on machines, as part of a campaign to tackle ongoing problems in the city.

Fixed odds betting terminals

Fixed odds betting terminals

At the moment gamblers can wager up to £100 per game on the machines.

The Against The Odds campaign comes as a long-awaited government review into FOBTs (otherwise known as B2 machines) is due to take place this autumn.

UK gamblers lost a record £13.8bn in the year up to September 2016 according to the Gambling Commission and campaign site Stop The FOBTs said a total of £53,297,234 in cash was spent in the machines across Portsmouth, Fareham, Havant and Gosport in 2016.

The campaigners also state that from the area’s 64 betting shops, £13,324,309 was lost on the area’s 233 FOBTs.

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Councillor Matthew Winnington called for a debate on the machines at a meeting of full council last week.

After a Conservative addition to his amendment, the council agreed to call on the government to request the removal of fixed odds betting terminals from use or reduce the price per spin to £10.

Cllr Winnington said: ‘We are calling for these machines to be less harmful then they already are where people can bet £100 per spin. It is just not right that people can spend that amount of money.

‘They are far too addictive and something needs to be done.’

He said in the meeting: ‘These machines are destructive in their ability to bring people into gambling. We do not have the power to do this ourselves, so we have got to say to the government that this is what we should be doing.’

Independent councillor Julie Bird said in the debate that while she ‘totally agreed’ to restrictions on the machines, she raised concerns that gamblers would move their business online.

She said: ‘Yes, we should be reducing these machines but what are we going to do about online gambling? If we are going to reduce it, it needs to be everything and not just half [the issue].’

Jason Haddigan, 45, who claims to have lost £2m to his gambling addiction, said a £2 per spin restriction is needed.

The father-of-three from Emsworth – who is writing a book about his addiction called How And Why I Conned the Bookies – said the situation was ‘getting out of hand’ in the city.

He said: ‘For me, £10 per spin is too high. They should be scrapped or reduced to £2 per spin as, for me, it is absolutely disgusting that you can bet £100 per spin.’

Ladbrokes has 12 betting shops across the city.

A spokesman said: ‘Betting shops in Portsmouth play an important part in everyday community life and employ over 150 people in the area.

‘The fact is 87 per cent of all money spent on gambling in Portsmouth is on other forms of gambling, just 13 per cent is spent in shops. As an industry, we fully accept that problem gambling for a small minority does occur and will continue to invest millions into new responsible gambling innovations.’

A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said: ‘The government is currently undertaking a review of stakes and prizes of gambling machines and their locations and that includes FOBTs.

‘It is important that gambling regulations strike the right balance between allowing the industry to contribute to the economy and enable people to bet responsibly while ensuring consumers and communities are protected.’

BOOKMAKERS’ ASSOCIATION COMES OUT FIGHTING

THE city council have ‘fallen for the spin of arcades and casinos’ in its decision to call for regulation of FOBTs, according to a trade association.

The Association of British Bookmakers rebuffed the council’s call to the government for restrictions to be enforced on the machines.

A spokesman for the association said that the council would miss out on over £350,000 in business rates each year if betting shops in the city were to close.

The spokesman said: ‘It is disappointing that Portsmouth City Council has fallen for the spin of commercial competitors, such as arcades and casinos, in backing a call for a cut in stakes on gaming machines in betting shops.

‘This is despite the regulator, the Gambling Commission, finding earlier this year that there is no link between gaming machines in betting shops and problem gambling.

‘Betting shops employ over 150 people in Portsmouth, and more people across the UK than the rest of the gambling industry combined.

‘The council also benefits from over £350,000 in business rates each year from our members. If betting shops close, this money to the council will be lost, yet gambling would continue in other forms. And by campaigning to close betting shops, highly-trained staff who can help spot and interact with people who may be at risk of problem gambling would be out of a job.’

The spokesman added: ‘As an industry, we fully accept that problem gambling for a small minority does occur, and that is why betting shops have invested, and will continue to invest, millions of pounds in new responsible gambling innovations.

‘The list of actions that betting shops have taken so far is a long one and we call on arcades and casinos to do the same: it includes giving players the chance to set limits on the time or money they spend, no ATMs in betting shops and ceasing advertising gaming machines in windows and messages on machines.’

CAMPAIGN OBJECTIVES

OVER the coming months, The News will be looking to highlight the issues raised by fixed betting odds terminals across our area.

These are the objectives of our campaign:

For the government to carry out its review into fixed betting odds terminals imminently and to restrict the machines to £10 per spin.

To encourage the area’s MPs to rally behind the cause and put pressure on government to restrict the machines to £10 per spin.

To support and highlight the charities which help current and former gambling addicts.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Have you been affected by problems with fixed odds betting terminals? Or perhaps a family member has struggled with a gambling addiction?

If you would like to tell your story – and remain anonymous if you wish – contact political reporter Loughlan Campbell on 023 9262 2130, or at loughlan.campbell@thenews.co.uk