10/09/2012 :  GETTING AT THE TRUTH ON FIXED ODDS BETTING TERMINALS
 
Responsible Gambling Trust plans independent research project on allegations that FOBTs are addictive
 
Allegations by anti-gambling politicians and religious groups that Fixed Odds Betting Terminals  in British bookie shops are addictive and require restriction are to be tested in an independent project sponsored by the Responsible Gambling Trust.
 
The objective is to establish conclusively through independent and professional research whether FOBTs are really the ‘crack cocaine of gambling' that anti-gambling media and action groups claim they are.
 
The publication ‘This Is Money' reports that evidence currently available has a margin of error that has enabled both pro and anti-machine groups to argue their case.
 
Groups such as the Salvation Army and Methodist Church have long warned about the potentially addictive nature of the approximately 32,000 FOBTs at bookmaking establishments that enable punters to gamble GBP100 a spin on games like roulette.
 
Responsible Gambling Trust chief executive Marc Etches told This Is Money over the weekend: "There is a dearth of evidence at the moment and there’s a particular interest in category B machines.
 
"We are committed to filling that gap. It will require the co-operation of the industry while being completely independent of it to make it meaningful and credible."
 
Etches said the study will likely begin early 2013, and negotiations are under way with the industry over what data they would share with the Trust.
 
The Trust is a charity dedicated to minimising problem gambling. Though it is funded by the gambling industry through voluntary contributions, it acts independently. Trustees include broadcaster Liz Barclay, Ladbrokes boss Richard Glynn and Carl Leaver from Gala Coral.
 
Last month in an interview with the Financial Mail, UK Gambling Commission chairman Philip Graf called for more research to be done into betting terminals rather than relying on simple anecdotal evidence.
 
The Association of British Bookmakers welcomed news of the study. Chief executive Dirk Vennix said: "There is no empirical evidence that B2 gaming machines cause problem gambling. But we would welcome independent research that will deal, once and for all, with some of the myths and more outrageous claims."
 
Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster is calling for a review into the number of machines and prizes. He says the highest stake should be GBP 2.
 
The Government’s response to a recent Parliamentary investigation into gambling, which suggested raising the limit on betting machines allowed per shop, is to be announced at the end of the month.