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25 September 2012

Press release

Government plans to cut betting machine stakes welcomed

Government plans to cut betting machine stakes welcomed

Government plans to limit harmful betting machines have been welcomed by the Evangelical Alliance. Reports suggest the government are planning to reject proposals to remove the cap on machine numbers and are considering lowering the stakes.

Betting shops are currently allowed four fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in each shop and players can stake £100 on each spin and potentially lose £18,000 an hour.

Media reports suggest David Cameron and Nick Clegg have agreed to cut the limit, potentially to £2 per play. This follows a report from the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee earlier this year that proposed removing the cap on the number of machines in betting shops.

The fixed odds betting machines are played by six per cent of gamblers but are cited in 29 per cent of calls to the gambling helpline. These machines have also frequently been referred to as the crack cocaine of gambling. At the time of the 2005 Gambling Act the Evangelical Alliance joined with other church groups and charities to warn that these machines could turn each betting shop into a mini-casino.

Fixed odd betting terminals have doubled since 2007 to 34,000, bring in over £1.3 billion to the betting shops and account for nearly half their overall takings. Recent research shows that gaming machines are disproportionately located in areas with higher levels of deprivation, and the 2010 British Gambling Prevalence Survey showed those who are unemployed or on low incomes are more likely to have gambling problems.

Responding to the reports, Daniel Webster of the Evangelical Alliance said: “Gaming machines in betting shops cause a lot of damage to the wallets and welfare of gamblers. The government are doing the right thing if they reject the irresponsible select committee proposals and instead rein in the limits on the machines.

“The news that powers could be given to local councils to restrict the number of machines is also welcome as long as this means that the existing cap is not lifted.”

Liberal Democrat minister for communities, Don Foster, has called for machines in betting shops to be subject to the same £2 cap per play that applies to betting machines in casinos and bingo halls. Speaking to the Daily Mail he said the government had agreed to conduct a review that will look at the level of stakes, the number of machines and the speed of play.

The government review will also include proposals to increase regulation of online gambling sites.

Media Enquiries

 Daniel Webster - d.webster@eauk.org
 020 7207 2129 or 07766 444650

Notes to Editors

1. The Culture Media and Sport Select Committee Report "The Gambling Act: A Bet Worth Taking" issued in June 2012 called for local councils to have the freedom to lift the cap on the number of FOBT machines in betting shops. The Evangelical Alliance gave evidence to the committee alongside other Christian groups in November 2011. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmcumeds/421/42102.htm

2. Research conducted by NatCen and commissioned by the Responsible Gambling Fund mapped the location of gaming machines. http://www.natcen.ac.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2011-press-releases/fruit-machines-and-gambling-study

3. The 2010 British Gambling Prevalence was issued in February 2011 and showed an increase in the level of problem gambling to approximately 450 000 people in Great Britain. http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/PDF/British%20Gambling%20Prevalence%20Survey%202010.pdf

The Evangelical Alliance, formed in 1846, is the largest body serving evangelical Christians in the UK, and has a membership including denominations, churches, organisations and individuals. The mission of the Evangelical Alliance is to unite evangelicals to present Christ credibly as good news for spiritual and social transformation. According to a Tearfund survey (Churchgoing in the UK, 2007), there are approximately 2 million evangelical Christians in the UK. For more information please visit www.eauk.org