Government to review ‘fixed-odds’ gambling machines

The government is set to review fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT), machines which are common on high streets, and take a closer look at children’s access to gambling.

The news comes as figures show around 600,000 people in the UK take part in ‘problem gambling’.

Figures also indicated that the gambling industry employs around 100,000 people in the UK and contributed more than £10 billion to the economy last year.

However, there has been widespread concern over the social problems generated as a result of ‘problem gambling’ and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport-led review will assess its impact on individuals and communities.

The review will examine FOBTs, users of which risk losing hundreds of pounds in minutes as they involve simple games like roulette, played at a fast pace. It will consider whether the current maximum stake of £100 is acceptable, as well as the value of prizes offered by the machines.

Tracey Crouch, Culture, media and sport minister, said: "It is important that gambling regulations strike the right balance between allowing the industry to contribute to the economy and enable people to bet responsibly whilst ensuring consumers and communities are protected."

Sarah Harrison, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, said: "We're very pleased that the review has been announced and that we have a clear timetable - it offers an excellent opportunity for all those with an interest in gambling to ensure their voices are heard. I would encourage any interested parties to share their views with government.

"As the regulator of gambling in Britain and committed to keeping gambling fair, safe and crime-free, we will be submitting our advice to government in line with our statutory duties."

Simon Blackburn, chairman of the Local Government Association's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: "Councils have long called for a review into gaming machine stakes, so the announcement by the government today is a significant step in the right direction.

"Councils up and down the country are worried about the number of high-stakes FOBTs and betting shops on our high streets. Someone playing on a machine can lose £100 in a matter of seconds in a single play on an FOBT. This is money many people can't afford to lose."