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Politics

General Election 2017: Labour pledges crackdown on FOBT machines

Labour manifesto outlines plan to limit FOBT bets to £2 after machines are accused of wrecking poor communities

With some punters now betting on President Donald Trump being impeached and tossed out of office, politicians closer to home are looking to get rid of a particularly controversial kind of gambling market.

Labour has pledged a crackdown on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), outlining a measure to reduce the maximum stake on the digital gaming machines to £2 in its general election manifesto.

FOBT gamblers are currently able to bet up to £100 per spin on the machines, allowing players to pile up losses dramatically quickly.

Critics of the machines have been calling on the government to restrict the stakes to decrease the risk of problem gamblers mounting up problem debts. But a planned government review into the FOBTs was put on hold when the general election was called.

Now Labour has promised to intervene, if voters are willing to take a punt on Jeremy Corbyn’s party on June 8.

“These highly addictive machines in bookmakers across the country have become a problem for many families and communities,” reads the manifesto, released this week.

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“They allow players to gamble away £100 every 20 seconds, encouraging people to chase their losses. Labour will also legislate to increase the delay in between spins on these games in order to reduce the addictive nature of the games.”

Although the big high street bookmakers have claimed that killing the popular FOBT market would lead to the closure of thousands of betting shops and significant industry jobs losses, independent experts say the amount of money currently being sucked out of punters’ pockets outweighs the economic impact of a crackdown.

Self-regulation has failed

Recent research by Landman Economics shows gamblers have lost more than £11bn on FOBTs since 2008.

“A billion pounds of ‘average’ consumer spending supports about 21,000 jobs across the UK, whereas £1bn lost on FOBTs supports only 4,500 jobs in the gambling sector,” Landman director Howard Reed told The Times.

“So for every £1bn lost on FOBTs, over 16,000 jobs in the UK are destroyed.”

And the poorest communities have been hardest hit by the impact of FOBT fever. The Campaign for Fairer Gambling has found £470m is being lost to FOBTs each year in the country’s 55 most deprived boroughs.

The right-leaning think tank Respublica has urged Theresa May’s party to follow Labour’s leader and restrict the impact of the machines.

“Self-regulation has failed; we are making the conservative case for a much lower limit to secure family life and promote prosperity,” said director Phillip Blond.

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