BRITAIN'S BOOKIES TAKE ISSUE WITH PARLIAMENTARY GROUP'S RECOMMENDATIONS
Association of British Bookmakers demands an urgent inquiry into FOBT report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group.
A report on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) due for release today (Tuesday) by the All-Party Parliamentary Group has raised the ire of the Association of British Bookmakers, which in a pre-emptive strike has demanded that government institute an urgent enquiry into the recommendations and content.
Key among those recommendations is that the maximum stake for FOBTs should be lowered from GBP 100 to just GBP 2.
FOBTs have long been a source of contention, with wide negative mainstream press coverage and political opposition to the alleged damage the machines in High Street betting shops cause to communities.
Late last year the Association of British Bookmakers refused to take part in an All-Party Parliamentary Group discussion of the issue, claiming that the exercise amounted to little more than a "kangaroo court" which it would not support.
The parliamentary group, which is headed by Labour MP Carolyn Harris, responded with its recommendation for drastic cuts in the maximum bet allowed, along with tighter restrictions on the number of machines permitted in each betting shop and slower spin speeds.
The Association claims that the political group's recommendation that FOBT maximum stakes be reduced to GBP 2 was not based on hard evidence that it would reduce problem gambling, and the body further argues that a recent study by the Gambleaware problem gambling organization had concluded that reducing the stake limit in isolation was not the most effective option for fighting problem gambling.
Describing the All-Party Parliamentary Group report as "deeply flawed" and funded by business rivals of the bookmakers (it named a few as an example), the Association's press statement alleged that the report represented the views of a very small group of anti betting g shop politicians.
The Association's chief executive, Malcolm George, voiced the Association's belief that the All-Party Parliamentary Group should itself be investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
Much of this debate is already well-trodden ground; just over a year ago the UK government carried out an extensive review of FOBT issues and concluded that there was no need to impose curbs in light of voluntary responsible gambling moves by bookmakers which included tighter control on bets of GBP50 or larger.
This year the government has been persuaded to look at the issue again, and that review is ongoing and entirely separate from the All Party Parliamentary Group.
Note also the latest Gambling Commission statistics, which indicated that the number of FOBTs in Britain is declining, and that it has seen no evidence that the overall problem gambling rate is increasing in the UK.
Statutory reports from quoted bookmaking firms show that the larger FOBT are not the norm, and in any case such high bets are falling…typically by more than 60 percent for GBP 50 stakes.
All-Party Parliamentary Group chair Carolyn Harris remains adamantly opposed to the machines, and has gone so far as to criticize the Gambling Commission for not being more involved and active in controlling the rise in FOBT popularity.