The UK’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has announced that it is to undertake a review of gaming machines and social responsibility measures in the industry.
The government body will consider stakes and prizes, as well as the location of the machines and the effectiveness of social responsibility measures.
Tracey Crouch MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for DCMS, said the review will also look at much-criticised fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) and the “specific concerns about the harm they cause”.
Derek Webb, founder of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, has praised the move and called on DCMS to take further steps to protect consumers in the UK.
“In the last triennial review DCMS made the mistake of relying on Gambling Commission advice which incorrectly claimed that FOBTs posed no risk to two of the three licensing objectives,” Webb said.
“The Commission has allowed bookmakers to avoid having to report criminal damage to FOBTs, resulting in a culture of violence in betting shops which places staff in danger.
“Social responsibility covers more than just prevention of harm; it also includes health and safety of staff. It should also include a commitment to providing local authorities, who have enforcement duties under the Act, with fair and open access to all relevant information on betting shop operations.
“When looking at the stakes across all gaming machines, FOBTs are a blatant anomaly.
“This is especially so when pubs, bingo halls and amusement arcades which operate in the same town centres and high streets as betting shops, offer stakes at £2 and under whilst betting shops offer hard casino gaming at up to £100.
“This review, by focusing on location, accessibility and impact on communities as well as problem gambling, clearly has FOBTs in mind and the view of Newham Council and the 92 other Councils backing their call for a cut in FOBT stakes to £2 must now be heard by the government.”
Meanwhile, the Campaign for Fairer Gambling has criticised plans to stage an investigation into online gambling advertising, saying the effort will have a “limited remit”.
Webb said the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) “keeps getting valid complaints about gambling ads and requires that these ads are not re-used”, but the “creativity” of marketers mean similar ads pop-up soon after.
Webb added: “The Gambling Commission claims that operators are 'not doing enough' but it is the Commission that is not doing enough as it has the power to fine operators and revoke licenses; the current system is failing under the not-fit-for-purpose Gambling Commission.
“We recently prevailed in a complaint to the ASA regarding an ad by the Senet Group, the bookmakers' own advertising watchdog.
“The Senet ad was so blatantly wrong that the ASA did not even obtain input from the Group into the decision.
“The majority of online gambling sites have located offshore under lax regulation and low taxes.
“The Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Group is taking the UK government to the EU courts to try to prevent having to pay a 15% point of consumption tax on losses from UK gamblers.
“The operators who want to avoid paying tax where the gambling harm results cannot claim any 'responsible' gambling credentials.”
Related article: Gambling adverts face daytime ban in UK