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Government launches review to ensure gambling laws are fit for digital age. Number of potholes being fixed has increased. Government accelerating pothole mapping project to support motorists and cyclists ahead of school return. Please enter your comment! Please enter your name here. You have entered an incorrect email address! Yes No View Results. Skem Utd Anniversary Shirt. Skelmersdale Lancashire. Contact us: info skemnews. Protecting and supporting the clinically extremely vulnerable during lockdown February 10, New online events to shape future of health and care in February 10, This led to a joint LGA-ABB framework to encourage closer engagement between councils and betting shops to address local concerns.
While there is an important role for partnership working between councils and the industry, fundamental changes are needed to enable councils to tackle betting shop clustering and the risk of harm posted by FOBTs to vulnerable people. Scottish Ministers will be given power to make an order following a debate in Parliament to vary the number of FOBTs and will therefore be able to influence how many gaming machines are available for use in Scotland.
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The report said: "We were disappointed that the bookmakers declined to participate and fear this is a reflection of their denial of the problems associated with FOBTs and a reluctance on their part to speak to policy makers about appropriate regulation. The time for prevaricating is over. The Association of British Bookmakers ABB warned such a move would be a "hammer blow" to high street bookies and threaten thousands of jobs. It demanded an immediate inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards into the APPG, which it condemned as a "front for vested commercial interests".
ABB chief executive Malcolm George said: "This is a deeply flawed report funded by vested interests who would directly benefit if its recommendations are ever implemented. The chairman of the Local Government Association's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, Simon Blackburn, said: "As well as leading to spiralling debt, problem gambling can impact on individuals and their families' physical, mental and emotional health and well-being as well as having a wider impact on society through crime and disorder.
Our editors will email you a roundup of their favourite stories from across AOL. UK Money. You have subscribed to this newsletter already! There is a guy called Andrew Lyman who now works for William Hill and is a rather truculent tweeter. He used to work for the commission when it stressed the importance of separating fundraising from commissioning and research, and now he works for William Hill lobbying against that.
So I think there is an inherent conflict of interest in the system that we have put in place and I hope that when the Minister responds to this discussion, she will be able to answer this question: how can the House have confidence in a report when we cannot be confident that it is truly independent? In the limited time available I want to just dispel some myths, but I shall start by saying it is always a pleasure to follow Mr Watson , my former sparring partner on the Select Committee.
However, I should point out that at the time the Committee carried out its report into gambling, the hon. Gentleman was a member of the Committee but I do not think he turned up to any of the sessions. Perhaps if he was so concerned about this issue he might have turned up and listened to some of the evidence because he might have learned something as a result.
I apologise for not turning up. There was another vested interest that I had a personal interest in at the time, as the hon. Gentleman knows, but when that debate was going on I thought to myself that not even the hon. Gentleman would be dumb enough to ask for more FOBTs in bookies rather than fewer. I was wrong. If the hon. Gentleman had actually turned up, he would have known the report was unanimously supported by all members including members of the Labour party.
The first myth I want to dispel is that there has been an explosion in the number of betting offices and machines. The number of betting offices has actually declined from a peak of 14, in the mids to around 8, today and that figure has been virtually the same for the last 10 years. Even in areas considered to have huge numbers of bookmakers—for example Hackney—they make up about 2. Let us take Greenwich as an example of what has happened. Of course bookmakers are often in densely populated areas and some of them happen to be poorer areas, too, but the relevant fact is that they are in densely populated areas not poorer areas.
There has never been anything like such a large number in that small area before. Something dramatic has changed and it needs to be fixed. The right hon. Gentleman says that, but many of his constituents work in them, of course, and many of his constituents enjoy going into them. If they did not enjoy going into them, they would not be open. It is true that more bookmakers have moved on to the high street in recent years, but their overall number has not gone up; instead they have moved from the side streets owing to lower rents because of the recession largely caused by the Labour party, and they will probably move back on to the side streets when the economy recovers and rents on the high street go back up.
Anyway, where are the legions of retailers wanting to open up on the high street in place of bookmakers? It is a choice between having Ladbrokes on the high street or a boarded-up shop. I cannot give way again as I have taken the two interventions allowed. People ask for a demand test and there is a demand test: it is called a customer demand test, which is the ultimate demand test. The second myth is that bookmakers target poorer areas.
There are two bookmakers per square mile in the most deprived areas. That compares with nine pubs and 11 takeaways. If the Opposition are saying that bookmakers are targeting the poorest people in society, what do they have to say about pubs and takeaways targeting those people? Do we hear anything about that? We do not, because this is not about the poorest in society being targeted; it is about people who are anti-gambling and anti-bookmaker. Bookmakers are not targeting poorer areas.
This is about middle-class people being patronising towards working-class people by telling them that they know best how they should spend their money. The third myth is that the machines are used by the poorest people.
Again, that is untrue. Member for West Bromwich East said that he did not want surveys to be linked to the gambling industry, but this is the health survey, which has nothing to do with the gambling industry. That survey makes it clear that richer people are much more likely than poorer people to play FOBTs. Only two gambling activities in that health survey were engaged in more by poorer people than by richer people. They were scratch cards and bingo. Poorer people spend more on scratch cards and bingo than do the richest people.
What are the Opposition saying about scratch cards and bingo? Nothing, because they do not think that it would be popular to say anything about them. This is just a case of crocodile tears. I would love to give way to the hon. Gentleman, who is a very good man on these issues, but I am afraid that time does not allow me to do so.
The fourth myth is that the amount of problem gambling is going up. That is down from 0. So problem gambling is going down, not up. If B2s and. FOBTs were the cause of such problem gambling, it would presumably have gone through the roof in recent years, but it has actually gone down. No one impartial describes them in that way.
This is a ridiculous debate on a ridiculous premise, and I cannot possibly support the Opposition motion today. Many of us on both sides of the House who represent poor and working-class constituents can see the effect that these machines are having on lives and families, and their impact on our inner towns and cities, especially where a proliferation of betting shops provides an opportunity to play the machines, or where category B1 and B2 machines are to be found in clubs.
Any Labour Members who attend trade union and labour clubs, and any Government Members who attend political and sports clubs, will regularly see people pouring hundreds of pounds into these machines, while often getting very little back. Does not that illustrate my hon. It does, and I commend my hon. Friend for his comment. These machines disproportionately affect those who live in poorer, working-class areas.
The problem of the B1 and B2 machines is highly pervasive. If someone in a club is drinking too much and clearly has an addiction or a drinking problem, they are often asked to leave. If they become a problem customer, they are shown the door.
However, problem gamblers pouring money into machines are not warned that their gambling is excessive. In fact, they are encouraged by the fact that the machines are placed next to the bar, so that any change put across the bar is put into the machine as quickly as possible. Additionally, a person may be drinking at the bar, and a machine next to the bar offers a comfortable place to park a drink while using the machine.
The companies that provide gaming machines to clubs, pubs and bookmakers use all sorts of techniques to maximise profits from the machines. The Government claim that the commission does not collect data for those businesses. That is their explanation for not having sufficient data to deal with an obvious problem. The fact that data on those businesses is not collected does not necessarily mean that the Government cannot publish a report or carry out an inquiry to get such information.
FOBTs allow almost unlimited winnings, as well as huge losses. Given the technology that the multibillion-pound gambling industry is using in this day and age, it beggars belief that it cannot collate the information that will allow the Government to make informed decisions about what the limits should be, and about how machines should operate, where they should operate and at what times of the day.
If anything, I believe that there is a deliberate attempt by the industry to cover up what is happening. The impact assessment does not give us a true overall picture of the situation. Communities are becoming poorer. We have heard from the Government about an increase in employment, but there has been a large increase in part-time employment, and low pay is the problem it always was. Poor people are being drawn in initially to try to make money for essentials, rather than just coming along for amusement, and are then getting drawn into habitual gambling, which we are all seeing on our high streets.
People know what is happening with high-stake, fixed-odds machines. The Government know what is happening, but they have deliberately chosen not to take action and to kick this into the long grass. They are in fact helping the industry by increasing the limits in the way they have.
We know what is happening with Wonga and payday loans. We know what austerity is doing to poor and unemployed people, and people on low incomes. People are trying to get money from any source, and gambling seems like a quick fix, and it is much more prevalent than it used to be. I have seen in my own town of Preston a huge increase in the number of betting shops and bookies. Payday loan businesses are taking over premises that were once shops, and reputable companies and businesses as well.
Friend has talked about the accumulation of data, and the Government say that they wish to look at the data before they make any judgment. He identified the fact that the data we are seeing every day with our own eyes is telling us the truth, which is that these things are increasing day upon day on our high streets.
Friend is right, and it does not take a genius to see what is going on; we are all seeing it every day on our own streets with our own eyes. Poor and unemployed people, who have been hit by austerity measures, are being drawn to the clubs and bookies to use these machines on a scale that has never been seen before.
The current limit of four FOBTs should remain the limit, and local authorities should be given the powers outlined in our motion, which I ask hon. Members to support. It is a great pleasure to contribute to this debate.
I served on the Select Committee when it investigated this issue between and Let us have a bit of a history lesson. That was a useful compromise, but the whole point of reviewing legislation is to see whether there have been any unintended consequences. One of the most obvious unintended consequences has been mentioned by many hon. Members: as the machines are popular and there is a demand for them, what we have been seeing in high streets in different parts of the country is that more and more betting shops are appearing.
That may be partly due to the fact that premises are readily available. There have been mergers of various banks and building societies, which are in the same planning class as betting shops. Ultimately, those shops would not open if people did not want to use them. Is the hon. Lady as disappointed as I am that the Government have not mentioned the survey that 2CV did in Newham, which is a reputable data gathering company?
She talked about how folk go into these premises and are addicted to these machines. I think I have seen that survey. It was commissioned by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling. I do not deny that that was the outcome. Professor Orford, who is known to be anti-gambling, gave evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee that we are the most studied country in the world, with three public prevalence surveys since and even more public health research.
Despite that, our Committee was not able to substantiate the fact that gambling addiction is driven by fixed odds betting terminals. Friend aware that about illegal machines were confiscated in the south-east last year? Does she agree that if FOBTs were banned, as the Opposition want, it would drive the gambling underground and even more of these machines would be played illegally?
I recognise that if we displace an activity in a controlled environment there is the risk of creating an uncontrolled environment. We should also consider some of the briefing we have been given. The Gambling Commission says we cannot use the gambling prevalence survey results specifically to identify the causation of problem gambling.
Some of the research, which alluded to secondary data research, said:. These findings suggest that popular perceptions of risk associated with specific types of gambling for the development of gambling-related problems might misrepresent actual risk…The range of gambling involvement frequently is a better predictor of disordered gambling status than type of gambling.
We should be looking instead at global behaviour characteristics. That is the research that was referred to by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, but it does not support its own particular view. There are different surveys on whether poor people are being targeted, including from Public Health England. Table 3. Scotland has the highest prevalence of FOBT use in the country as a whole.
I do not deny that there are individual cases. We know that there are problem gamblers—the latest estimate suggests between , and ,, and those individual cases will be absolute tragedies. We may have heard them on the radio or met them in our surgeries. They may have bet the family silver. Families are torn apart by the problem, but this is no different from what happens when people are driven to similar distraction by other addictions, such as to alcohol or drugs.
I respect Clive Efford , but he says that all he is talking about is a few more powers. The basis of our English law is that we can do what we want unless the Government and the law intervene to restrict us, and we see that with crime, planning and so on. We must be careful when we stop legitimate gambling on the basis of anecdotal research. It is a bit like the many campaigns that we receive. We need to think carefully about any changes that we propose.
We need to continue to work to try to tackle the problems of problem gamblers, but that does not mean that we should throw away the freedoms people rightly enjoy to gamble, whether that is on our high streets or elsewhere. I cannot support the Opposition motion. The key issue at the heart of the debate is localism—the ability of local authorities to act in the interests of the people they represent.
I was most surprised when the Minister referred to localism as an unacceptable patchwork, as that is an unacceptable approach to take when considering local authorities and their responsibilities. The debate is not about gambling in general but about specific and growing concerns about fixed odd betting terminals in betting shops. Research has shown that the people using those facilities particularly include young unemployed men. Has the hon.
Lady ever played a fixed odds betting terminal? They have one of the highest rates of return of any gambling machine and it is virtually impossible to lose hundreds of pounds as the majority of the money one puts in comes back out again.
I am concerned about the negative aspects of the activity, and I refer the hon. Gentleman to some of the information contained in the report of Landman Economics, which I have quoted. There is certainly a link between the growth of such facilities and areas of deprivation. In Liverpool, Riverside , which I represent, there are now such terminals—one of the highest levels in the country—and it is a very deprived area.
That deprivation has been recognised by and has caused deep concern to the local authority, Liverpool city council, which is why it raised the issue last November and called for increased powers to enable it to deal with this specific concern. It is often local authorities that recognise the cumulative effects of such facilities, and the impact on local communities and individuals. The city council has cited in its debates many cases of people who have turned to loan sharks in desperation, having got into debt because of these facilities, and the problems that they have experienced.
Indeed, the Landman Economics report provides evidence of the economic impact on local communities. There is concern about the development of such facilities, about the fact that they are uncontrolled in areas of deprivation, and about the impact on individuals and local communities, and it is important that local authorities are given the necessary powers to deal with the issue. Government Members seem to have said a number of different things about local authority powers.
Some have suggested that local government has sufficient powers, others have said that such powers are perhaps difficult to find and others have cited examples of where such powers have been found to be failing or simply do not exist.
The key point is that local authorities should be able to deal with the issues they consider to be important to their areas. That does not mean that they should be forced to take a particular course of action, but they should be enabled to do so when they feel that it is necessary. The proposal is not about gambling in general and certainly would not deal with the significant growth of online gambling. This is about another very specific issue, as it is extremely important that local government is given the powers it requests to react to problems.
Friend is making powerful points about the contradictions in the points made by Government Members about localism and nationalism and about addiction. Is that not shocking? Friend makes some important points, and I urge Government Members to recognise that the heart of the motion is about empowering local authorities to take the action they consider necessary in the interests of the people they represent.
It does not preclude other decisions being made when further research has been carried out, and I urge the Government to support the motion. Just before Christmas, I was one of only four Government Members to vote against the Government in a deferred Division on this issue. Unfortunately, although I have great sympathy with many of the points made by the shadow Minister , Clive Efford , I cannot support the Labour motion.
I will not rehearse the reasons for that, but the motion is cynical, opportunistic and, not least, confused. The Leader of the Opposition launched a campaign in the summer about stakes and problem gambling. It was about the generic issue—it was not just about use class orders and planning, which is what the hon. Member for Eltham is telling the House today. Friend shares my concern—I am sure he will discuss clustering in Peterborough, which is similar to the clustering of betting shops in Green Lanes in my constituency —that there should be greater local powers.
My local area wants to set up a neighbourhood plan that involves the high street. Does he think that in the review and the response the promise to leave no stone unturned should include greater powers in relation to planning and licensing? That is an integral part of any remedial powers that the Government take to deal with the serious and legitimate concerns of many of my constituents.
I am disappointed, because this could have been a genuine cross-party debate on information and research provided by bodies such as the Methodist Church , which has not always supported my party, and the Salvation Army. I declare an interest as a member of the good neighbours board of the Peterborough citadel of the Salvation Army. Undoubtedly, there is a problem. The precautionary principle is not that there should be unambiguous, completely definable evidence of a causal link between critical problem gambling and FOBTs.
It is about the risk of problem gambling. One of my worries, which has been partly ameliorated today, is about the precautionary principle on the maximum stake. Mr Sutcliffe has defended the Responsible Gambling Trust, and he is right to do so. I do not distrust the RGT , but there are serious concerns. I am always happy to give way to my hon.
Friend talks about the precautionary principle in gambling and problem gambling. That is an argument for banning gambling altogether, because in any form of gambling there are people who become addicted. On that logic, his argument is to ban gambling altogether. Is he aware that someone can place a bet on a 5-furlong sprint at Epsom that takes 50 seconds with an unlimited amount of money?
There is no limit whatsoever. It is interesting that my hon. I cannot give way. Gentleman is very engaging, but I must resist his blandishments on this occasion. I am not a devil take the hindmost, freemarket libertarian. I am a Conservative—I am a social conservative. I believe that there is a compact or bond of trust with the most vulnerable people in our society.
There is a problem with problem gambling. As a Christian, I have compassion for those people who are stuck with the mindset of feeling that they have to gamble, but my concern is mostly for the children and families affected by problem gambling. We have a responsibility and a duty. We have regulatory regimes for many things in our society. I think that it would be wrong, when so much money is being made, and from some of the poorest people in society, to walk on by and say that we do not need to look at this again.
Labour was catastrophically wrong on this issue. I think that this is the worst motion the Opposition have ever chosen, because they are on very weak ground. I believe that the Minister is right to look at the precautionary principle and to demand all the up-to-date information on the B2 machines, which are very sophisticated, from the gambling companies. A code of practice is not good enough, because we are not talking about Mother Teresa ; we are talking about some pretty ruthless business organisations that are protecting their interests, and some of them are preying on the most vulnerable in society.
We need the information. Friend Dr Coffey that we need to base our decisions on data that can be proven and tested, not on anecdote. Having said that, I believe that the Salvation Army has produced a great deal of data. We heard earlier about the increase in the number of problem gamblers in recent years.
In short, we are a Government committed to localism, so let us give local authorities more powers to look at use class orders, to crack down on clustering and to look at the absolute number of FOBTs, all of which I agree with. But let us have a consensus across the House, rather than vindictive, party political point scoring, because this is too important an issue for our families and communities for that.
Mr Deputy Speaker , if you were to step off the train at Sunderland station, you would see a betting shop straight away, and you would not need to walk far to see several more. Problem gambling is associated with a number of mental and physical health issues, including depression and insomnia, in addition to comorbid disorders such as alcohol abuse. Problem gambling is a significant health issue, both from a public and a private perspective.
Although treatment is needed and sought by many, prevention of extreme gambling behaviours should be boosted by giving local authorities the power to restrict the number of betting shops opening in their areas and revoke or reduce the number of FOBTs in each branch.
FOBTs are purposefully and cynically targeted at the most vulnerable in society. They target areas of deprivation and take money away from those who can least afford to lose it. In an article published this morning, Dirk Vennix, chief executive of the Association of British Bookmakers, claimed that misinformation was being spread on the issue, citing the health survey for England, yet the same study shows that nearly twice as many people in the most deprived quintile use FOBTs than in the least deprived.
It drags vulnerable people into cycles of debt, exacerbates our cost of living crisis and turns other shoppers away from our already struggling high streets. There is a clear link between problem gambling and debt problems. It also stated that there is an urgent need to improve education about gambling for young people in schools. Education is crucial, but often it is all too late. Problem gambling encouraged by FOBTs affects not just adults but an estimated 60, young people aged between 12 and Furthermore, young people are far less likely to seek help for their gambling problems.
The industry is stoking fears that any changes to FOBTs will inevitably lead to job losses, yet there is an inversely proportional relationship between the net takings of FOBTs and the number of employees in betting shops. As many branches are single-staffed, it can be difficult to monitor users and detect problem gamblers, and it will be even harder if the industry has its way and has the number of machines in each shop increased.
Betting shop clusters do far more harm than just to gamblers. The Portas review said that. Indeed, it puts many people off going shopping on our high streets. FOBTs are bad for problem gamblers, bad for our high streets, and bad for public health. When I visited a local betting shop on a high street in my constituency , it was, unexpectedly, a rather quiet, low-key activity.
I certainly did not recognise the picture painted by Stephen Timms , who said that betting shops attracted drunkenness and bad behaviour. Gambling is as legitimate a leisure activity as going to football matches, pubs or the cinema. Lady aware that it is well established that the staff of betting shops are instructed not to report violent incidents inside the shops in order to keep them out of the crime statistics?
I can only say how strongly that contrasts with my experience of visiting a local betting shop in Hornchurch. Gambling is enjoyed by 8 million people nationally, and betting shops provide local jobs and help to stimulate the economy. People have the right to choose how they spend their disposable income.
I have no gambling instinct personally. I choose not to gamble, but that choice is open to everyone, and I defend the right of others to gamble responsibly if that is their choice. Friend is making a very good speech. One of the key points is that in fixed premises on the high streets people cannot drink alcohol. If we were to push more people into online gambling, who knows what would happen, as people can sit and drink and gamble at very quick speeds?
Friend makes a good point. The betting shop I visited was more like a coffee shop, because tea and coffee were being served. I question the claim that betting shops are too numerous or not wanted. Clearly some local people do want them, otherwise they would not remain viable. Passers-by were not being dragged into the shop off the street—in fact, most people passed by—and nobody inside was being coerced into betting against their will or spending more money than they had planned.
The well-trained staff knew most of their regular customers and were trained to notice any addictive behaviour should it occur. Help and advice was available to any individual who needed or wanted it. The Association of British Bookmakers is bringing forward new measures as part of its code for responsible gambling and player protection. They include allowing players to limit their spending and the time they spend playing. Staff will also be alerted. That really over-eggs the pudding and makes the motion cynical and gimmicky.
The Association of British Bookmakers states that it is impossible to credit a machine that quickly. For those reasons, I support the amendment. I am also a non-paid, independent trustee of the Responsible Gambling Trust. The trust was set up under the previous Labour Government , who wanted the gambling industry to contribute to a voluntary levy towards research, education and treatment.
There are five independent and five industry trustees under the chairmanship of Neil Goulden. I wanted to intervene earlier on my hon. Friend Mr Watson , who is not in his place —perhaps that is not unusual—to point out that Neil Goulden is not the chairman of the Association of British Bookmakers. The trust commissions work to look at the core issues affecting problem gambling and, indeed, the treatment of problem gamblers.
It has an excellent chief executive in Marc Etches, who has considerable experience across the piece. The trust has commissioned detailed, independent research into fixed odds betting terminals and related matters. The important sub-committee that deals with the research and findings is chaired by a senior independent trustee, Liz Barclay , who is a respected broadcast journalist and producer.
It has been made clear to the industry that whatever recommendations the research throws up, the trust will stand by them. An interim report is expected in March, with a full report to follow. Those concerns are usually connected with the perceived proliferation of betting shops.
The betting industry employs 40, people directly and there are 8, betting shops in Britain, which is far fewer than the 16, betting shops that existed in the s. Gentleman is making an excellent speech, as usual. I accept that there are many independent betting shops, but the problem, as the hon. Gentleman pointed out in his speech, is the perceived proliferation of the main bookmakers on the high street.
As he said, the reason is that they used to be on side streets, but they have now moved to the high streets. The problem for the gambling companies is that they are associated with payday loan companies and others on the high street that are causing great concern, especially among our local government colleagues. That is why I have no problem with the motion with regard to local government and its powers. Powers already exist alongside the licensing objectives in the Gambling Act, and many local authorities may use those powers if they think betting shops are acting outside those objectives.
It is understandable that local authorities want more powers. As we have heard, FOBTs have always been on probation, and we should reflect on the fact that the deal done on the Gambling Act restricted betting premises to four machines. We must have evidence, however, and I think that it will be forthcoming through the Responsible Gambling Trust, which has asked bookmakers to provide it with a whole range of information. To counter the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East , the independent directors will look at the report and recommendations, and will report to the full trustees.
As was said by the Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee , Mr Whittingdale , that Committee looked at the issue and determined that the number of machines and of betting shops should be decided locally by local authorities. My problem is with the antics of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling. It is right and proper for the campaign to set out its view, but it is not right for it to try to vilify those who oppose its views. It sets out to rubbish any analysis that is not its own and, in particular, to try to rubbish the work of the Responsible Gambling Trust, which was set up to look at issues of problem gambling.
If it is a real campaign for fairer gambling, why is its only focus on FOBTs? There are many other areas of problem gambling, as the gambling prevalence survey has shown. There are many other issues to consider, including online gambling, which has already been talked about. I believe that the debate did not need to be emotive and that we could have got to the core of the issues.
The point about local authorities having more powers was well made by my hon. Friend Mrs Ellman. I believe that we need to look at the subject sensibly and wait for the research to come out, and then make decisions based on that evidence. I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate, but I first want to add my tribute to my parliamentary neighbour, Paul Goggins. This cannot be said about many politicians, but I have never heard a bad word said about Paul by anyone on either side of the House.
He was a very courteous Minister , and in opposition he treated Ministers with respect. He will be sorely missed on both sides of the House, and my thoughts are with his family and close friends at this difficult time. It is more interesting to see what is not in the motion than what is. Votes on Opposition day motions make no difference to Government policy, and we have come to expect from the Labour party motions on aspects of disagreement between the two coalition parties.
I therefore fully expected to see yet another Opposition motion that matched Liberal Democrat policy—in other words, a commitment to reduce stakes and prizes, and plans for a separate use class for betting shops so that local authorities are given more powers to restrict the number of licensed betting shops on our high streets and in our local centres. Back in September, the Liberal Democrats called for betting shops to be put in a new separate planning use class, which would allow local authority planning committees to control their numbers.
Just three months later, Labour announced that it would legislate to put betting shops in a separate use class so that councils could use planning powers to control the number opening in their area, so it is good to see Labour following our lead. Some, including Mr Watson , have claimed that the Government have missed an opportunity to proceed with a reduction in stakes and prizes on fixed odds betting terminals.
Instead, it simply focuses on slowing down the rate of spin. Liberal Democrat Members will not be lectured by Labour on fixed odds betting machines. After 13 years in government, its cultural legacy to our high streets and town centres was hour drinking, lap dancing and fixed odds betting terminals.
He heads the Campaign for Fairer Gambling. Gentleman for that helpful intervention. However, I will take no lectures from anyone on either side of the House about political donations. Indeed, the shadow Secretary of State has admitted that Labour made a mistake. I am happy to reject the motion not only on the basis that it would not solve the problems that are created by FOBTs, but because the timing of the debate is ill judged, given that the coalition Government are undertaking research into the impact of FOBTs.
The Government have challenged the betting industry to implement enhanced player protection measures by March this year or face precautionary measures. If the industry fails to deliver on its commitments, or if at any time the balance of evidence suggests that action is required, the Government must not hesitate in imposing a precautionary reduction in stakes and prizes. It is no secret that there is disagreement between the coalition parties.
I am confident that the research will prove that there is a need for action. The Salvation Army estimates that the number of people with a problem increased by 30, between and Research conducted by Professor Gerda Reith at the university of Glasgow suggests that B2 machines pose a particular risk to problem gamblers because of their rapid rate of play that offers addicts the quick fix that they are looking for.
A study in the European Journal of Public Health found:. I have to drop the time limit to three minutes to get in as many Members as possible. If we could have fewer interventions, it would be helpful. In debates of this nature, we are in danger of dividing the sector into good and bad gambling companies.
Betting shops are seen as bad, while the national lottery, which has not even been mentioned in this debate, is seen as good. There can be no doubt that FOBTs have a high potential to cause gambling addiction, but there is a tendency to blame betting shops for everything.
There has been no talk today of the presence of FOBTs in pubs and motorway service stations. When I drive down the M4 on a Monday and back up it on a Thursday, I can walk into a service station and think that I am in the middle of a mini-casino. Who is policing those places? Equally, there has been no mention of the dominant position of the national lottery.
Newsagents up and down the land have lottery terminals, and scratchcards can be bought anywhere. They are far more accessible and far more addictive than FOBTs. We have to look seriously at FOBTs and other gaming machines. However, we must work not only with the betting industry, but with the pub industry, the owners of motorway service stations and amusement arcades, and Camelot.
If we are to legislate properly in this area, we need a strong academic survey of the impact of prolonged use and of the clientele who use these machines. It is easy to bash these machines and the industry. Anecdotal evidence is all very well, but we need facts and figures before we intervene. Since such gaming machines were introduced in , there has been no significant change in the level of problem gambling.
It is not me who says that, but a study that was commissioned by the Gambling Commission in The same study indicated that problem gamblers played up to nine different products. They do not stand at FOBTs feeding in note after note; they look for other outlets for their addiction. As well as using the machines, a problem gambler bets on the horses and the dogs, and buys scratchcards.
I have not heard anybody talking about how many people are addicted to scratchcards, yet people can just walk into a newsagents and buy one. No hon. Member would disagree that our aim should be to protect the customer, but my concern is that, by not debating the issue properly, we are not dealing with problem gamblers.
In the short time I have left—only 30 seconds—I must also mention single staffing, on which a briefing has been provided today. That was a problem when I worked in a betting shop, and was the cashier and the manager. It is all very well saying that that was due to footfall, because only 20 people walked through the door, but those 20 people might want to put on bets at the same time.
That situation put me under stress. I did not have to deal with FOBTs, but such a situation can stop members of staff policing them. There is also a social issue. I was being paid only to be the manager that day, not to be the cashier, so I was earning below the minimum wage.
If the situation is still going on, it needs to be dealt with. It is a pleasure to follow Chris Evans and his thoughtful, careful speech on this sensitive subject. That is absolutely right, and when I sat on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee , our gambling inquiry showed that it is an incredibly complex area with a lot of contradictory evidence.
Several Members have asserted that there has been an uncontrollable, unsustainable boom in gambling, but a study of the facts simply does not support that. There was an increase in the use of FOBTs after the Gambling Act was introduced, but the number of them on the high street has declined in the past three years.
Betting shops are changing location, but there has been no explosion in their total number. The change in numbers in those two studies are within the margin of error, so not necessarily statistically significant, and other studies since have demonstrated that instances of problem gambling are declining. That is why we must have a sensible evidence-based approach.
The scenario that the Labour party paints about gambling on the high street, the prevalence of FOBTs, and the clustering of betting shops, was created entirely by the Act. Was the decision of the then Labour Government based on robust evidence and science? The Act perhaps had good intentions, but it has had massive unintended consequences. When Richard Caborn gave evidence to the Select Committee, he was asked why the previous Government settled on having four FOBTs in betting shops—what was the reason for that number?
He responded:. It was an agreement saying what was reasonable and what we believed—with the evidence that we had—was proportionate at the time. That is exactly how it happened. It was their best guess, and it has led to the clustering of FOBTs on the high streets. Because there is demand for FOBTs and not enough premises to play them in, bookmakers have opened new betting shops so they can have new terminals. I think that refutes the idea that the motion is localist or about giving powers to local communities in any way.
This is not a localist motion but one in which the Labour party is asking councils to do what it wants—close betting shops and get rid of FOBTs altogether. In the little time available I will restrict my remarks to the impact of FOBTs on increased criminality and money laundering on our high streets. We might criticise the Gambling Act , but it clearly states that gambling machines must prevent.
These machines are being used to launder millions of pounds of money from criminality, drug dealing, loan sharking, people trafficking and so on. There is a particularly nasty crime family in my constituency , and the Home Secretary has spoken on numerous occasions about the good work that County Durham has done to tackle organised crime. They are all over these FOBT machines.
The European Union is likely to include the machines in directive 4 on money laundering, and I would be interested to hear what the Minister thinks about that. Even the United Nations office on drugs and crime has warned that these games are used by organised crime to launder cash. Despite the assertion from the gambling industry and the Association of British Bookmakers that they fully comply with the law, it is clear that, however inadvertently, these machines are now an integral and increasing part of the machinery of organised crime and money laundering.
In the little time I have left, I plead with the Government to take seriously, in their review, the impact of FOBTs on money laundering and their increasing use, and to limit the stake. This is a serious issue, one that I have campaigned on locally and spoken on in this House. I hope the shadow Minister will look at my previous contributions before we go on local radio tomorrow morning and he will see what I have said on this issue in the past.
I will not be supporting the Labour motion this evening. I share the concerns of many Members on both sides of the House about the impact that FOBTs are having on our constituents, but it is wrong and misguided for Opposition Members to say that the issue is applicable only to those in deprived areas. I represent a constituency with areas of multiple deprivation. The figures for the amount being gambled in FOBTs in those areas are the same as those for the amount being gambled in the much more affluent areas of Kent, such as Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells , so it is difficult to say that this issue is confined to more deprived areas.
It is important to consider the evidence, collect all the necessary data and ensure that we respond accordingly. Having an interim report early next year and a report later in the autumn will not be quick enough to deal with the issue, because it is an increasing problem. I am not opposed to giving councils more flexibility to deal with clustering, but the problem is not exclusive to bookmakers.
As a consequence of previous legislation, it is also the case with payday loan companies, pawnbrokers and licensed premises. We do not necessarily need legislation to deal with this problem. Conservative-led Medway council has been working with other organisations and has implemented a voluntary code of conduct with the ABB to try to ensure that we deal with problem gambling directly.
That is a much more sensible way forward and I look forward to seeing the outcomes of that partnership. It is a pleasure to follow Tracey Crouch. She took part in an Adjournment debate I secured in April on this subject, and she agreed that we should give local authorities the opportunity to provide part of the solution. I understand that she will not be voting for the motion, but the Government should listen to the spirit of what she has said, particularly on the rapidity of the research—that was a point well made.
I had my usual annual bet before the third round. Both Fulham and Norwich tried to lose, but we are still in the cup. I mention that to make the point to Philip Davies that not everybody who has concerns about FOBTs is anti-gambling or views it as anathema. The Under- Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Nick Boles has indicated from a sedentary position several times during the course of the debate that the number of FOBT machines has gone down, but that is not the case in my constituency.
The point of the motion and the debate is about those areas where the number of machines and betting shops is increasing. I invite him to come with me to Cambuslang main street, in my constituency, a small main street that now has five betting shops, each with four machines, within yards of each other. Before my Adjournment debate last April, I visited several betting shops in my constituency, and in Glasgow close to my constituency and in London, and each time I saw people on the machines for long periods putting in significant amounts—I could see that just by standing there.
The Government must take cognisance of that, instead of just saying that the number of machines has fallen. This is a problem about proliferation, as my hon. Friend Clive Efford said at the start of the debate. It was no surprise to me that the betting shop was in one of the most deprived parts of my constituency. He came to me not because he thought he had a problem, but because he thought the machines were fixed.
That underlines the point. Strikingly, several younger people in that group had accepted they had a problem, had gone for help and were trying to resolve their issues, but they had a problem relating to these machines. The situation was very different with the older people in that group. The Government ought to take that seriously. We have heard a lot about the staff in the shops. Friend Tom Blenkinsop knows from his experience that people in those betting shops often feel under pressure not to report things.
They have said very clearly that they want to be bookmakers, not bouncers, and that they find themselves intimidated into not reporting incidents. All these are important issues, but the proliferation and concentration of shops in particular areas is the big issue that the Government should address first. Some , people in this country are problem gamblers and 3.
These are not small numbers. Users do not need to be addicted for catastrophic problems to be caused to them and their families. It is not just an individual problem, but a grave social and public health issue that we need to recognise and deal with. Phill Holdsworth, head of external affairs at Christians Against Poverty , says:.
It is not possible to put forward a solution without them receiving help or support for their addiction. He continued:. As such, about 3 million people are now affected by problem gambling—every one an individual, every one a blighted life, many of them children. We urgently need a concerted Government approach and—I believe—a cross-party approach to address the economic, social and health costs associated with problem gambling.
The Salvation Army , whose work I pay tribute to in this respect, says:. I agree with the phrase used by Tom Greatrex , when he said that many people viewed gambling as anathema. We need to review our whole approach towards gambling. Given my hon. As I say, we need a wholesale review.
I oppose the Opposition motion, which is wholly inadequate, not least because Clive Efford , who introduced it, said that the motion was not about problem gambling. Well, it should be. Let us start on a note of cross-party unity: I agree with much of what the hon. Lady has just said. I have limited time, so I will cut directly to the chase.
I see five Ministers on the Treasury Bench, all of them well educated and intelligent people, so I ask them to think about the contradiction in the case they are making. They tell us that the Gambling Act was a mistake, which has intentionally or unintentionally given rise to the current problems, although those of us present in will remember that we did not talk about fixed odds betting terminals at any length, but about super-casinos and other matters. Ministers tell us that that Act, introduced by a Labour Government , has created a major problem.
They blame us for bringing it in and then for doing nothing to correct the situation over the subsequent five years. I say to those Ministers that if there is a problem—they accept that there is one, as we heard from the speech of the Under- Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Mrs Grant —they have a five-year window in which to do something about it. Let me challenge the Minister : will the Government legislate during this Parliament to correct what they have told us today about the grave errors in the Act?
Are Ministers going to bring forward legislation before the general election? I do not believe that the proliferation of high-street gambling in these tourist destinations is good for tourism. For tourist towns as well as the deprived areas, this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
We have had an extremely lively debate this afternoon on an issue that many Members across the Chamber clearly feel strongly about. It is this Government who are failing to take action on the issue and who have facilitated a proliferation of FOBTs and betting shops on our high streets.
It will be interesting to see whether they rediscover their commitment to localism and vote with us in the Lobby. A number of Members have made excellent speeches this afternoon. Friend Stephen Timms spoke of the inadequacy of local government powers to control betting shops, and pointed out that action under those powers can be overturned on appeal.
Friend the Member for North West Durham also noted the rise in criminality that is associated with betting shops in some areas. Friend Mrs Ellman injected a much-needed degree of sense into the debate by returning us to the central issue of localism.
Friends the Members for Bradford South Mr Sutcliffe and for Islwyn Chris Evans spoke of the importance of getting regulation right, not least because of the large number of people who work in the industry. Neither I nor my colleagues object to a betting shop or two on the high street, and I appreciate that the industry has a code to encourage responsible gambling, but, as a number of Members have said, that does not go far enough.
It is vital for the Government to take action to recognise the wishes and needs of local communities. As many of my hon. We have heard how some players have become addicted to FOBTs, and how the machines, and the proliferation of betting shops that promote them, are causing debt and misery, as well as acting as a magnet for crime and antisocial behaviour.