The Government’s announcement on gambling machines – a response from the Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church
The Government’s decision significantly to reduce the stakes for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) from a maximum of £100 to £2 is welcome. This reduction will make it harder for people to lose huge amounts of money so quickly, and most affect problem gamblers who are known to gamble at higher stakes. It will also mean that high stake gambling is no longer available on the high street.
The reduction in FOBT stakes alone will not, however, end problem gambling. As we warned in our submission to the Government’s consultation, people who have problems with gambling will adapt their playing behaviour in response to changes, using different machines or strategies. Therefore we welcome the moves to introduce player controls on other gaming machines. We also welcome the range of player protection measures being currently explored by the Gambling Commission, including the proposal to improve protection measures for online gambling.
However we are disappointed that these do not yet address other areas of concern. We are particularly concerned that people can use their credit cards when gambling online. We urge the Government and the Commission to take this anomaly seriously. We are also concerned that the benefits of account based play, where players and operators can monitor play and spending across different forms of gambling, have not been recognised.
We welcome the Government’s decision not to increase stakes and prizes on other gambling machines. But we remain concerned that children can still gamble on commercial gambling products, something where Britain is an anomaly. Gambling is an adult activity. The fact that nearly 57,000 children are problem gamblers or at risk of problem gambling should be a huge concern to us all. Measures are needed to tackle all forms of commercial gambling available to those under 18 years, from category D machines to the National Lottery.
The impact of problem gambling goes far beyond the individual, affecting their partners, children, friends, work colleagues and wider community. We welcome the significant steps taken by the Government today in prioritising the protection of players. We urge them to continue to take seriously the harm that gambling is causing to individuals and society.