Thank you to everyone who has contacted me following the 38 Degrees campaign on fixed odds betting terminals.
According to the Gambling Commission – the industry regulator – there are 430,000 problem gamblers in Britain and a further 2 million at risk of developing a gambling problem. Nearly 14% of people who use FOBTs are problem gamblers and in 2016, £1.8 billion was lost on these high-speed machines.
I am extremely concerned about the epidemic of problem gambling and the real damage that FOBTs can cause. These machines can ruin lives and I have long believed that the maximum stake should be reduced from £100 to £2 and that the delay between “spins” should be increased to reduce the addictive nature of these games.
Following pressure from both inside and outside of Parliament, it was confirmed in May 2018 that the maximum stake would be reduced to £2, but it was very disappointing that the recent Budget outlined that this change would not be implemented until October 2019.
However, I am delighted that widespread pressure has forced the Government to bring the implementation date forward to April 2019. This followed a cross-party amendment to the Finance Bill, which I supported.
The Government’s climb down is very good news for the many thousands of people whose families and communities are blighted by gambling addiction and I am proud to have been part of the cross-party campaign to reform our gambling laws.
Nevertheless, I remain committed to pressing for further improvements to gambling regulation. Problem gambling should be treated as a public health emergency and lowering the stake on FOBTs must be just one part of a broader process of tackling this hidden epidemic.
I believe there should be a ban on credit card betting and new rules to allow addicts to tell their bank to stop online gambling transactions. I also support a ban on gambling advertising in live sport. In addition, I would like to see a compulsory levy on gambling operators of 1% of Gross Gambling Yield, to increase resources for the treatment of gambling addiction.