St Albans punters lose nearly £3m to fixed odds betting terminals every year

PUBLISHED: 08:07 29 August 2017 | UPDATED: 08:07 29 August 2017

A fixed odds betting terminal. Photo: ARCHANT LIBRARY.

A fixed odds betting terminal. Photo: ARCHANT LIBRARY.

Archant

Punters in the St Albans district are losing nearly £3m a year to fixed odds betting terminals, new data has revealed.

Cllr Roma Mills. Photo: JAMES WARD PHOTOGRAPHYCllr Roma Mills. Photo: JAMES WARD PHOTOGRAPHY

Data from the Campaign for Fairer Gambling showed that between 2008 and 2016, £16,842,399 was lost in the district to these terminals (FOBTs), which are often found in high street bookmakers alongside more traditional forms of gambling.

St Albans Labour leader Roma Mills said: “People lose frightening amounts of money in a few minutes.

“FOTBs are dangerously addictive and cause real harm, often to vulnerable people and their families.

“The only gainers are the bookies and the government. We don’t want to raise tax by causing such misery, and the Labour Party is committed to taking action to stop it.”

St Albans MP Anne Main. Photo: Office of Anne MainSt Albans MP Anne Main. Photo: Office of Anne Main

FOBTs allow gamblers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds, and one of Labour’s General Election promises was to reduce the maximum amount that can be staked on these machines from £100 to £2.

St Albans MP Anne Main is also looking into the impact of these terminals, which have seen nearly £2m lost every year in her constituency between 2009-2016.

She said: “I first looked into the issue gambling regulation as a member of the communities and local government select committee over 10 years ago.

“I toured the country visiting towns and cities where the then-Labour government was looking to liberalise gambling laws for urban generation, and this gave me a very good understanding of the industry and how it affects people and communities.

“The government’s review is rightly looking at the industry as a whole.

“Millions of people gamble responsibly in the modern economy and betting takes many forms, so we need to strike the right balance between socially-responsible growth, and protecting consumers and communities.

“I always believe that it’s absolutely vital to properly assess the evidence. We need to look closely at addiction and the effects on the local economy.

“After I met with a local bookmaker last month, and in anticipation of the government’s review, I tabled questions in parliament, asking for the government’s view of betting shops in the local economy and what effect gambling machines have on levels of addiction.

“I look forward to the government’s findings, and will be scrutinising this issue when it comes to parliament.”

The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has also been campaigning for greater regulation.

Last year he introduced legislation in the House of Lord to empower local authorities to limit the number of FOBTs in their area.

He said: “A minority of people who bet on FOBTs have developed gambling addictions which led to them losing large sums of money.

“In some cases people have lost homes and families due to their addiction.

“The personal and social costs of this insidious form of betting, dubbed by some as ‘the crack cocaine of gambling’, are enormous and effect every community in the land. At the moment it is possible to lose up to £300 per minute on these machines.

“There is an urgent need for new regulations to reduce the stake from £100 to £2. I am pressing the government to publish its review as soon as possible, so we can alleviate the social problems being created by FOBTs.”

The terminals have also been criticised by the Local Government Association and professional gambler and presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell.

To see the data, visit www.stopthefobts.org

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