News campaign to tackle ‘highly-addictive’ betting terminals stays strong despite speculation over autumn review

Chief Inspector Sharon Woolrich

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THE NEWS’ Against The Odds Campaign will continue to fight for the tighter regulation of highly addictive fixed odds betting terminals, despite confusion arising over the weekend.

Last month The News joined forces with Portsmouth City Council to lobby the government to impose a reduced £10-per-spin restriction on the machines, known as FOBTs.

The terminals – which currently allow players to wager up to £100 on a single in-game spin – have proven to devastate the lives of gamblers in some cases.

Contrasting reports over the weekend resulted in speculation over the future of a government review of the machines, set to take place in the autumn.

It came as The Mail Online reported on Saturday that chancellor Philip Hammond had scrapped the probe – fearing it could lead to a dramatic reduction in tax receipts bolstered by gamblers’ losses.

This claim was later rubbished on Twitter by sports and civil society minister Tracey Crouch, who called the reports ‘fake news’.

Despite the uncertainty, The News and Portsmouth City Council will continue to lobby for a reduction in playable stakes on FOBTs.

City council leader, Donna Jones, said her stance had not changed amid the reports.

She said: ‘Portsmouth City Council is still very dedicated to its original position – nothing has changed.’

Former Emsworth gambler Jason Haddigan, 45, claims to have lost £2m to his addiction and has called the FOBTs ‘evil roulette machines’.

Speaking after Ms Crouch took to Twitter to dismiss the claims the review was called off, he said: ‘For a minister to come out and say it is fake news is fantastic.

‘I am 99.9 per cent certain it [the maximum £100 stake] will be reduced in October.

‘It really does need to get sorted out.’

Statistics from the Gambling Commission and campaign site Stop The FOBTs showed a total of £53,297,234 in cash was spent in the machines across Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport and Havant last year.

The figures said £13,324,309 was lost on the area’s machines during this period, which are situated in 64 betting shops.

Nationally, about £1.8bn is spent on the machines each year, diverting more than £400m to the Exchequer.