PLANS for the introduction of new laws to regulate high stakes betting machines were voted out of the House of Commons last night, as a York MP said more action was needed to stop machines which do the community “more harm than good”.
Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), reportedly cost people in our region more than £372 million a year, with more than 33,000 across the country making more than £1.5 billion each year.
In a Commons vote last month, four Tory MPs voted against the Government and supported Labour in its calls for the stakes on the machines to be slashed from £100 to £2.
MPs yesterday voted on Labour plans to change the laws and regulation of the machines, which can see users lose up to £300 per minute.
Hugh Bayley, MP for York Central, spoke at the debate, and said there was cross-party agreement on the problem posed by the machines, which became more prominent following changes to he Gambling Act implemented by Labour.
He said: “It’s clear to me that there is a significant social problem.
“I do not shy away from the fact Labour's fingerprints are on the last Gambling Act, but there is a serious problem and the party recognises that and we should change the law.
"Government says there’s a significant problem but is not committed to changing the law, instead getting into discussions with the industry and research. Personally, I think it calls for action.”
During Prime Minister’s Question Time, David Cameron heard claims the machines caused problems for families and individuals, with betting shops becoming “mini casinos” in deprived areas, and admitted the Labour party had a “reasonable point”.
However, he said it was up to local authorities to make full use of their powers to tackle local issues.
Mr Bayley said research showed heavy concentrations of FOBTs were present in deprived areas, but also in constituencies with large tourist attractions, including York.
He said: “Gambling is a part of York’s culture, with the racecourse, but it only has six or seven races on the course in an afternoon. People may well walk away and lose money after having a good day, considering it part of the cost of going racing.
“However, if they come to York for a day and lose £1,000 or more on a fruit machine in a betting office, they are unlikely to shrug it off and say it’s part of the cost of a good day out.”
A review by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport of FOBTs is due in the spring.