Several months later than originally expected, DCMS – which meanwhile has become DDCMS, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – has produced, not the expected decisive action about FOBTs and advertising, but instead a further consultation document which postpones the decision on FOBTs for another several months and contains a string of other disappointments.

No decision yet on the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

Government accepts that large losses are being experienced by players of B2 machines, that there has been no reduction in the prevalence of problem gambling and that the industry’s self-regulatory measures introduced in 2013 appear to have made little difference. It concludes that the maximum stake on a single play on a B2 machine should indeed be reduced, as has been widely suggested, from the current £100. This is the single part of the document that the media has picked up on, making it look as if Government has been listening and is taking decisive action. Unfortunately this is far from being the case. It is stated that evidence is lacking to inform their decision about what a new maximum stake should be. The document goes on to outline four illustrative alternatives: £50, £30, £20 and £2, although anything between £50 and £2 is possible. Since a reduction to £2, which would bring B2 machines into line with other categories of gambling machine, is what has been widely called for (by the Local Government Association and 93 local authorities across England and Wales, by a variety of campaign groups, charities and faith groups, by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on FOBTs, and by the campaign group 38 degrees which submitted a petition with over 100,000 signatories), whereas £50 would scarcely alter the nature of B2 machines at all, this is a surprisingly wide range of possibilities. It is difficult to know what is going on. Does this indicate that there is a major divergence of views on this issue within DDCMS which is playing for time? Does it suggest that we are being prepared for a compromise £30 or £20 which might be acceptable to the industry but which would preserve the special nature of B2 machines as high stake/high prize, high-powered machines with addiction potential, very different from other gambling machines capped at a much lower stake-level?

Gambling industry wants no change on FOBT stakes but increases elsewhere

Unsurprisingly the industry argued for maintaining the status quo on stake limits. But not content with defending abnormally high stakes on B2 machines, the industry had also made other proposals which clearly indicate their intention to press forward with further innovations which put people at risk. For example, the industry proposed increases in maximum stakes on B3, C and D category machines, increases in prizes in categories C and D, more machines in casinos, and a 500% increase in the maximum progressive jackpot prize for B1 machines in casinos. The British Amusement Catering Trades Association (BACTA) also made a further extraordinary suggestion which indicates the way they are thinking. They proposed a new sub- category of machine in amusement arcades, a B5, which would have a maximum stake of £10. They argued it would allow operators to offer a more varied selection of products including what they describe as ‘low stake roulette’. So, not content with having turned betting shops into mini casinos in the high street, they have now set their sights on doing the same for amusement arcades. To their credit, DDCMS are not persuaded about the need for these changes at this time and propose maintaining the status quo, at least for now.

No change on gambling advertising

If we were also hoping for decisive action on advertising, we will have been disappointed. In defence of its proposal to do nothing much about gambling advertising they argue that existing Advertising Codes and the industry voluntary code already restrict the content of gambling advertising. They repeatedly cite the review carried out a few years ago, published by industry-led Responsible Gambling Trust (now GambleAware), and much quoted by the industry, which came to the controversial conclusion that the impact of advertising on problem gambling prevalence was ‘likely to be neither negligible nor considerable, but rather relatively small’. The DDCMS report refers to what they call a ‘package of measures and initiatives... intended to address concerns about gambling advertising...’, but this appears largely to consist of making the existing regulations clear to everyone, tightening up on them a bit, welcoming the proposals of the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) to produce new guidance, and supporting GambleAware, broadcasters and industry groups who have drawn up proposals for a major responsible gambling advertising campaign. Such campaigns are of doubtful effectiveness and in the case of gambling may do as much to promote the normalisation of gambling as to reducing harm.

Nothing for local communities

The new consultation document contains yet more disappointments. It is made clear that Government intends to do nothing new to help local authorities control the concentration of betting shops in their communities, and the wider impact of the normalisation of gambling in society is not addressed at all.

Complacency about treatment for gambling problems

In a short sub-section on Treatment, there is a rather extraordinarily complacent statement: ‘Problem gamblers can already access treatment services in primary and secondary care including specialised mental health services. Local authority commissioned specialist drug and alcohol services may also be able to offer treatment…’! There is nothing at all in this section, or anywhere else in the document, about services specifically for affected family members, that largest of all stakeholder groups who are harmed by gambling.

Worst of all, a Government that supports gambling growth and is committed to taking a backseat

But there is even worse. The Executive Summary contains a clear statement of the overall position of the Government in relation to gambling regulation and its own responsibility in the matter. There are two statements in particular that stand out. This is the first: ‘The objective of the review was to ensure that we have the right balance between a sector that can grow and contribute to the economy, and one that is socially responsible and doing all it should to protect consumers and communities, including those who are just about managing’. That makes it abundantly clear that Government wants to encourage the growth of gambling in Britain. This is strange for a Government that must be concerned about its public image, since survey evidence is quite clear that the majority of the public do not want more gambling, in fact most people think there is too much of it already. The second, equally revealing and worrying, statement makes it clear that the present Government intends to take a back seat, giving the industry a central position: ‘... we want to see industry, regulator and charities continue to drive the social responsibility agenda, to ensure that all is being done to protect players without the need for further Government intervention...’.
It is Government’s overall position on gambling in Britain that needs to change. We will not see serious reform while Government continues to support the growth of gambling and refuses to contemplate a proper national debate on the role of gambling in modern Britain and a proper national gambling strategy which mandates cross-Government-department action on the prevention and treatment of gambling harm.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

That is really disappointing. I get on average 10-15 spam emails DAILY from UK gambling websites... I think I tried every possible thing to block them off my email - sadly no luck. It's time these thieves were fined for harassment.


There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location
Type the text presented in the image below

Latest UK News

Gambling industry fails to answer calls for controls during the virus crisis

14 Apr 2020

I was one of 12 academics and doctors who sent a letter to the Times last week calling for a suspension of gambling advertising during the crisis. Twenty...

Are betting companies taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis?

28 Mar 2020

Betting companies, like so many others, are facing uncertainty created by the coronavirus crisis. Will their profits decrease or, because people are confined...

New book on gambling is a must-read

24 Mar 2020

Rebecca Cassidy 2020 Vicious Games: Capitalism and Gambling. London: Pluto Press. No one knows better than Rebecca Cassidy the way in which betting has...

Gambling company sponsorship of football – What should be done?

09 Mar 2020

Following the announcement of a ban on the use of credit cards for gambling in the UK from April, the spotlight is now on the Government to see how quickly it...

Gambling Commission’s industry groups on safer gambling: a conflict of interests

07 Feb 2020

The Gambling Commission is setting up three industry-led working groups to help take forward its ‘drive to make gambling safer’ (see GC newsletter 27 January...

Betting companies admit that a huge percentage of ‘deposits’ come from a few customers

07 Feb 2020

The five big betting companies have admitted, for the first time, under questioning from members of the House of Lords Select Committee on gambling harm, that...

Gambling with credit cards banned from April

22 Jan 2020

After holding a consultation, the Gambling Commission has decided to ban gambling operators accepting payment with credit cards, starting on April 14th. At...

NHS England blames the gambling industry for gambling addiction and plans new gambling clinics

08 Jan 2020

‘The NHS is facing a rising tide of gambling related ill health’, says NHS England. Their data show the number of gambling related hospital admissions has...

Pub allows under 18s to use gambling machines and loses its permit

19 Dec 2019

For the first time a British pub has been stripped of its permit to have gambling machines on its premises (Gambling Commission 16 December 2019). Redbridge...

Parliamentary group lambasts online gambling

05 Dec 2019

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm (APPG-GRH) has produced an Interim Report into the Online Gambling Sector which does not mince...

Political parties pledge gambling reform

05 Dec 2019

All four main political parties going into the December 12th general election make specific mention of gambling in their manifestos. Congratulations to...

'The Gambling Establishment' is published - a must read

18 Sep 2019

An important new book will be out in a few days time: The Gambling Establishment: Challenging the Power of the Modern Gambling Industry and Its Allies, by Jim...

The tide is turning against the gambling industry

09 Aug 2019

Great BBC TV programme available online at from 4 July 2019. Comedian Lloyd Griffith fails to double his money during a week of gambling,...

Gambling with Lives launch shows the tide is turning

17 Nov 2018

Tuesday this week, 13th November 2018, was the launch of Gambling with Lives (GwL) at the Houses of Parliament. The event was extremely well attended by...

Gambling with Lives

16 Aug 2018

Gambling with Lives (GwL) is a new group started by the parents of a young man with a gambling addiction who committed suicide. They are naturally grief...

FOBT Stake Cut to £2 Maximum

17 May 2018

The Government has at last seen sense and done what we and so many others have been asking for. Today it has announced it is bringing the maximum stake per...

What do you think about online gambling marketing: Gambling Commission wants to know

13 Feb 2018

The Gambling Commission (GC) has announced that it is working with the Competition and Markets Authority to make sure that online gambling companies bring...

Gambling: a big public health problem neglected

15 Sep 2017

The Gambling Commission has just published a summary of British survey findings for 2015. The results are not new but this is the first time they have put...

Are we seeing a backlash against liberalised commercial gambling?

05 Jun 2017

I have seen a couple of signs just recently that the tide might be turning against the establishment assumption that a strong, innovating and widely...

Gambling problems are costing Government hundreds of millions

13 Jan 2017

An important report came out at the end of 2016. This was from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), an influential and progressive British...

What shall we say to the Government enquiry on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals?

07 Nov 2016

Good news! Well maybe, let’s wait and see what the actual outcome is. But we do welcome the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) putting out a...

Honest admissions by prominent gambling establishment figure

11 Aug 2016

Gambling Commission’s former Chair talks at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA)   Following his five years as Chair of the Gambling Commission, Philip Graf was...

Support Gambling Watch UK

Together we can make a difference

We believe there is overwhelming support for the view that there are already too many opportunities for gambling and that this is bad for individual, family and community health, but our voices need to be heard if we are to influence public policy..

Click here to register your support