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News for Stop the FOBTs
Stop The FOBTs in 2017

As many of you will know, it's been a big year for the Stop The FOBTs campaign. 

On 31st October 2017, after being delayed by the summer's general election, the government published a consultation that covers proposals on:

  • Maximum stakes and prizes for all categories of gaming machines permitted under the Gambling Act 2005.
  • Social responsibility measures for the industry as a whole to minimise the risk of gambling-related harm, including on gambling advertising, online gambling, gaming machines and research, education and treatment.

We are now well into the 12-week consultation period which will run until 23rd January 2018, following which the government will consider its final proposal on gambling measures, including the maximum FOBT stake.

The Campaign objective is to reduce the maximum FOBT stake from £100 to £2 per spin. You can help us achieve this objective by submitting evidence to the government for examination in the consultation. To submit evidence, you need only follow the instructions to fill in a short multiple-choice form, which will only take a few minutes to complete.

Both organisations and individuals are able to submit evidence for examination online. You can do this by: 

More bodies back the £2 stake throughout 2017

In February, the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions (BALPPA) became the latest organisational body to back the growing campaign by joining the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).

Joining the FOBT APPG as an Associate Member, Paul Kelly, Chief Executive Officer, said: "The issue of FOBTs has been a concern for our members for some time now. The normal rules of regulation just don't seem to apply to these high stakes, high-speed machines. We are conscious of the concerns MPs have raised about the problems FOBTs are causing and want to work constructively with them to find a solution."

The story was picked up on InterGame Online and the Coin-Op Community website, as well as being the topic of discussion for one of our own Politics Home Central Lobby articles.

In March, coming a year after they called for a reduction on the maximum FOBT stakes, the Royal Society of Public Health became yet another supporter of the APPG on FOBTs. 

Writing on their website , the RSPH expressed that gambling on FOBTs is fuelling financial problems, something they believe is damaging to the health and wellbeing on FOBT addicts and is responsible for poor mental health and an increased risk of suicide or the breakdown of personal relationships.

Also in February, at their General Synod, the Church of England's national body unanimously passed a motion on the government to cut the maximum stakes of FOBTs from £100 to £2. Stating that the government needed to act as a 'matter of urgency', the body explained how the machines "feed off poverty, exacerbate it, often plunging people into unmanageable debt, bringing misery not just to the gamblers but to their families, and especially their children."

This story received wide coverage, being up by the Daily Express, The Times and to name but a few.

Since then, the Church of England has been vocal on the latest breaking news in the fight against FOBTs, adding to the noise of politicians, campaigners, organisational bodies and those whose lives have been affected by problem gambling. 

More figures of problem gambling revealed

Much of the news coverage surrounding FOBTs and problem gambling this year have revealed figures about the amount of money lost to FOBT machines across the country.

In April, Conservative Think Tank ResPublica produced a report, detailing that UK gamblers have lost £11 billion on FOBTs since 2008. This figure has also cost the economy almost 200,000 jobs according to recent research, which also details the average amount lost by each FOBT player.

Phillip Blond, Director of ResPublica, said: "As this story shows, self-regulation within the gambling industry has failed. The next Government must build on the initiatives of the last in order to impose a much lower limit on stakes for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals. At ResPublica we are working with the Campaign for Fairer Gambling to make the conservative case for such a move, in order to secure family life and promote prosperity by reducing one of the most harmful aspects of modern gambling making it easier for people to live healthier and happier lives freed from gambling-related harm and addiction."

Over the year there has been lots of coverage on both a regional and national level, detailing how much money has been lost to FOBTs in local authorities, and across the country as a collective. 

Other figures surrounding the number of problem and at-risk gamblers came to light in the Gambling Commission's social research paper: Gambling Behaviour in Great Britain 2015, in August. It was revealed that over 2 million Brits fall into the 'at-risk' bracket, whilst the number of people in the UK who have a serious gambling addiction has surpassed 430,000, up around 50% from the 280,000 figure recorded in 2012. 

This news was reported in a lot of national publications, including The Times, The Daily Mail, The Guardian and The Sun.

As well as this, it was reported in The Times in July that over one million requests came from gambling addicts voluntarily asking to be banned from betting shops and websites. This number has risen rapidly from the 300,000 requests in 2013 in data collated by The Times and shows the rapid rise of the issue in the country.

Bookies in trouble and lone-staffing concerns

There have been multiple examples of bookies getting themselves into trouble this year, the most recent being when a Northern Ireland bookie was arrested as part of a police investigation into whether the machines breach gambling laws. The story was covered by BBC Northern Ireland and The Irish News in November.

In April, a whistleblower came forward to detail how Ladbrokes Coral encouraged shop workers to target customers to spend more on FOBTs. The Times reported on the ex-employee's explanation of how staff were being incentivised to encourage punters to bet more and how this had resulted in many betting shop employees failing to check wither gamblers were betting with drug money or to intervene if customers were gambling too much out of fear of losing profitable customers.

Concerns rose over betting shop staff working alone throughout the year with stories such as the one reported by the Bury Free Press in February. A drug user was arrested for threatening a worker in a betting shop and stealing £140. The suspect admitted on his arrest that his motive was to get arrested to seek help for his addiction.

In July, BBC London detailed that figures showed the number of violent incidents in and around bookmakers rose by 24% between 2014 and 2016, and criminal damage rose by a third in the same time period. The practice of lone-staffing is one which has continued to face criticism and looks to continue to do so as more reports of violence in betting shops come out. 

Gambling amongst the vulnerable

Many stories in the news throughout the year detailed how gambling affects the vulnerable, but certain stories have proved more troubling. Headlines in the latter part of the year focussed on problem gambling amongst students and even children. 

September saw the Victoria Derbyshire Show on the BBC discussing the topic of problem gambling amongst students as another academic year began. As it was revealed that some students have gambling debts of up to £10,000, Campaign spokesperson Matt Zarb-Cousin appeared on the show to discuss his own problems with gambling, and to speak with a problem gambler about his addiction whilst at university. The show also saw Ben Haden of the Gambling Commission discussed concerns about the impact gambling can have on undergraduates with a representative from the National Union of Students.

In August, The Times discussed how children are being bombarded with a record number of gambling adverts as betting websites set out on an unprecedented spending spree to attract new customers. By October, gambling sites were forced to stop luring children in with free-play offers.

However, results of a new survey revealed in December that half a million children and young people are online gambling every week thanks to technology providing children as young as 11 with the opportunity to experience gambling through free-to-play casino games, social media and within some computer games. The topic of children gambling has been covered extensively by national publications such as The Guardian, the BBC and the Evening Standard in the last month.

For more news from the Campaign and the battle against FOBTs, please visit our News and Events page and be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

If you missed any of our newsletters this year, be sure to catch up here.


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