NEWS COMMENT: A move in the right direction but still not a win for all

A fixed-odds gambling machine Picture: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire
A fixed-odds gambling machine Picture: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire

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Encouraging news from the Gambling Commission, which recommends a reduction in maximum stakes for highly-addictive fixed odds betting terminals.

The News has been campaigning for just that, but although we welcome the commission’s recommendation, we are not satisfied it goes far enough.

Currently people can bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on electronic casino games, such as roulette and blackjack.

We launched our Against The Odds campaign because of the large numbers of people falling into hardship through addiction to fixed odds betting terminals, branded the ‘crack cocaine’ of the gambling industry.

Working alongside councillors and MPs, our campaign aimed to lobby the government to impose a £10 per spin restriction on machines.

In one respect the commission has gone further, saying the maximum stake on ‘slots games’, like traditional fruit machine games, should be £2.

But for other types of games, like casino-style roulette games, it recommended a £30 per stake limit.

Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said: ‘We’ve put consumers at the heart of our advice — advice which is based on the best available evidence and is focused on reducing the risk of gambling-related harm.

‘In our judgment, a stake cut for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals alone doesn’t go far enough to protect vulnerable people.

‘That is why we have recommended a stake cut plus a comprehensive package of other measures to protect consumers. We have proposed actions that will tackle both the risk of harm and provide solutions that are sustainable in the longer term.’

These include working with the gambling industry and others on steps to make limit-setting more effective — this could include ending sessions when consumers reach time and money limits.

The advice has been given to support the government with its review of gambling machines, with a decision expected in coming weeks.

We are pleased that the gambling commission has acknowledged the problem these machines pose, but we hope the government will go further and impose a £2 maximum stake for fruit-machine style games and £10 for casino games, rather than the recommended £30.