Friday January 11,2013 : FOBTS DEFENDED BY UK GOVERNMENT
Political row brewing following claims that FOBT operators target poorer punters
With the political furore growing following the publication by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling of regionally detailed stats on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals wagering, the UK government's Culture Minister intervened Thursday, ruling out a crackdown on the machines.
Culture minister Hugh Robertson told Parliament that there was little evidence FOBTs caused serious problems despite Labour MPs calling the betting machines the "crack cocaine" of gambling and claiming that operators were targeting poorer areas.
He rejected the idea of creating new laws to restrict the machines or the betting shops where they are located.
Earlier this month the Association of British Bookmakers denied that poorer areas were being targeted, or that the machines were addictive.
The minister said he would only change the law if there was new and compelling evidence.
A recent Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report recommended that local authorities should be able to allow bookmakers to operate more than the current limit of four high-stakes gambling machines per shop .
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling demanded the machines should be banned from betting shops on the High Street with immediate effect.
The organisation, backed by psychologist Professor Jim Orford, said they were too addictive and should be restricted to casinos only, or the stakes allowed radically reduced from GBP 100 to GBP 2.
The Minister said that the Responsible Gambling Trust was carrying out an investigation into the use of fruit machines and problem gambling.
But he said any new laws should be based on research, not anecdotal evidence.
"This is one of those quite tricky areas where common sense suggests there is a major problem but there is a lack of evidence to back this up," he said.
"I very much hope that the major research project that is being undertaken will give us the necessary evidence that we need and absolutely, once that is proved, the government will act."
Culture committee chairman John Whittingdale said he "shared the concerns" about the machines and there was a "desperate need" for more research.