A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) into fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) calling for the maximum stake to be cut from £100 to just £2 per spin has led to a war of words between the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) and opponents of FOBTS
The APPG also renewed its calls for the spin speed to be reduced and the maximum number of terminals to be cut from the four currently allowed in betting shops. The group published its initial report on FOBTs last December.
The ABB responded by saying the moves recommended in the report would deal a considerable blow to high street bookmakers and threaten thousands of jobs.
The organisation said it had filed an official complaint with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards over the “misleading” report, which was funded by a number of anti-FOBT groups.
In a statement, Malcolm George, chief executive of the ABB, said: “This is a deeply flawed report funded by vested interests who would directly benefit if its recommendations are ever implemented.
“The report is the view of a tiny group of anti-betting shop MPs. This group has been financed by those with interests in the casino, arcade and pub industries. We strongly believe that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards should urgently investigate this All-Party Parliamentary Group.”
In its report, the APPG said: “Bookmakers declined to appear before the Group and (to date) have not submitted any evidence to us. We provided the bookmakers with every opportunity to contribute to the inquiry and present their side of the case. We would have welcomed this and been interested to hear it.”
However, Philip Davies MP told iGaming Business that from the first meeting of the group, which he attended, Carolyn Harris, the MP heading up this APPG, said that the report was being created to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2 per spin. He emphasised that this was before any evidence had even been considered.
When asked why he thought bookmakers hadn’t turned up to the APPG inquiry, Davies said: “I suspect it was because they thought it was pointless when the inquiry’s conclusion had already been decided, they probably didn’t want to give it any credibility.”
BACTA, the trade association for the UK amusement sector, has spoken out against FOBTs in the past and written to MPs asking for FOBTs to be allowed in adult areas of amusement arcades and bingo halls.
BACTA is listed, along with the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, major pub chain JD Wetherspoon and the Hippodrome Casino (as part of the National Casino Forum), as fee paying associate members of the APPG.
Davies said that although BACTA had to look after its own members, it was committing “mutual suicide” by calling for the reduction of stakes on FOBTs.
Meanwhile Derek Webb, an inventor of casino games and founder of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, released a cutting statement.
Referring to FOBTs, Webb said: “A caveat applied… that if there was evidence of harm, then DCMS was granted the power to reduce the stakes to £2 maximum per spin. There has been more than enough evidence of harm to enact this exact stake reduction as a precautionary measure since 2010.
“I attended, and spoke at a hearing of the All Party Parliamentary Group on FOBTs where FOBT addicts spoke out. The atmosphere was electric and emotional. I applaud the Parliamentarians who have taken the time to listen to addicts and compile the evidence.”
Malcolm George of the ABB said: “This group of MPs has operated in secrecy, provided no transcripts of the evidence given to their meetings and operated throughout behind closed doors away from public scrutiny.
“Britain’s bookmakers employ more than 43,000 staff and contribute over £1 billion a year in taxes. But, betting shops are already closing at the rate of more than 100 a year and if the findings of this rigged report are implemented, it could spell the beginning of the end for the High Street bookmaker.”
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