A WIGAN man at the heart of a campaign to rid betting shops of machines he dubbed the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ has hit out at the Government’s attitude towards the issue.
Adrian Parkinson, who previously worked for Tote and is now spokesman for the Fairer Gambling organisation, was involved in launching the machines - known as fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) - from 1999 until 2008, and authored the study for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling last year.
The results found that in Wigan alone, 87 FOBTs in 24 shops produced a gross profit of £2.89m.
The culture secretary Maria Miller is due to announce the outcome of a review of gaming machine stakes and prizes.
But she is expected to resist calls to drastically reduce stakes on FOBTs.
Mr Parkinson called FOBTs the “crack cocaine of gambling” but bookies say there is no evidence they cause addiction and his campaign has been backed by the MP for Makerfield, Yvonne Fovargue.
Unlike fruit machines in pubs, bingo halls and amusement arcades, where stakes are limited to £2, gamblers can bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on FOBTs - more than four times as fast as the rate of play in an actual casino.
The maximum payout is £500.
Despite being limited to four terminals per shop, FOBTs now account for almost half the big bookmakers’ annual profits and have led to an increase in the number of betting shops on Britain’s high streets in recent years.
Mr Parkinson says the gambling industry “jumped for joy” when the previous Labour government opted not to outlaw them in the 2005 Gambling Act, deciding instead to place them “on probation.”
The Department for Culture Media and Sport has declined to comment ahead of the announcement, although industry and government sources have hinted that the status quo will be maintained for now.
A DCMS spokesman said: “We are finalising the government’s position on stakes and prizes following the public consultation and will publish our response in due course.”
The triennial review is aimed at boosting growth in the gambling industry “by stripping away unnecessary red tape and stimulating private sector investment.”
Mr Parkinson said: “The announcement still hasn’t been made despite the launch of the Triennial stating a decision would be announced in July.”
Question is why is DCMS delaying announcement, yet at the same time briefing that the status quo will be maintained for now.
“FOBTs should never have been included in the Triennial in the first place.
“The purpose of the Triennial Review is to assess for uplift of stakes and prizes - there has never been a reduction in stakes on any category of machine as a result of a Triennial Review.
“Including FOBT in the Triennial was sought by the Lib Dem’s after Don Foster MP (Junior Minister DCLG) called for a stake reduction to £2 last September. It was a trade off to avoid a split between the two coalition partners.
“We never envisaged DCMS reducing the stakes and knew it was an attempt to kick the issue into the long grass. Our strategy is to continue pushing on the issue and to get it on the agenda at the next General Election.”