Campaigners split over new betting machine limits

Fixed odds betting terminals
Fixed odds betting terminals

Politicians and campaigners in the borough have given a mixed reaction to news of a Government consultation to crack down on controversial gambling machines.

Wigan campaigner Adrian Parkinson welcomed ministers’ strategy on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) and said he would be lobbying for a stake level of £50.

Adrian Parkinson outside Labrokes in Wigan town centre

Adrian Parkinson outside Labrokes in Wigan town centre

However, Labour MP for Makerfield Yvonne Fovargue echoed her party’s hard line on the issue and slammed the Government for not bringing down the maximum allowed bet to just £2.

The machines, which currently allow £100 to be bet every 20 seconds, have been dubbed “the crack cocaine of gambling” and long sparked calls for change due to fears they are wrecking lives and communities.

The Government has acknowledged that is too high and the culture minister has announced the stake will be reduced to somewhere between £2 and £50.

Figures released by gambling campaigners show the scale of the issue in the borough, with gamblers losing £5.8m to the 210 FOBTs in Wigan in 2015-16 alone.

Altogether residents were parted from an astonishing £58.3m by the machines in the borough between 2008 and 2016, the Campaign for Fairer Gambling says.

In response to this Ms Fovargue says enough is enough and has demanded the Government takes tough action.

She said: “This (the consultation) is a disappointing move from the Government, who appear deaf to the concerns raised by campaigners and others who have been telling the

Government for years that they must do something about these highly-addictive machines.

“Families across the country have been devastated by the effects of gambling addiction which is too often accompanied by theft and drug and alcohol abuse.

“Reducing the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2 will make all our communities safer and better off and it’s now up to the Government to reconsider its approach and take firm action now.”

However, the approach adopted by ministers has drawn support from prominent campaigner Mr Parkinson.

He said he did not believe lowering the maximum bet to £2 would solve problem gambling and would actually prove highly economically damaging.

He also resisted the calls to ban the machines entirely which have been made in the national media by some people battling gambling addictions

Mr Parkinson said: “Personally I think the Government has made the right decision.

“They are not going straight into setting an amount but are opening it up to MPs and the public to have their say on where we think the level should be set.

“I will support a maximum stake of £50.

“A £2 limit would close betting shops and cost thousands of jobs across the country.

“The £2 argument is completely false.

“It is based on machines in amusement arcades which operate at £2 every two and a half seconds, but that’s actually £16 per spin.

“We have to remember these are betting shops, not places where people go to spend 50p or £1.

“They go in to gamble and if they are betting over the counter on the dogs, horses or football there are no restrictions.

“There should be restrictions on gaming machines and it is wrong there hasn’t been but now the Government is acting it has to come to a sensible staking level to look after the people playing the machines and safeguard the jobs the betting industry creates.

“Most people in betting shops don’t use FOBTs and the majority of people are not harmed by gambling.”