An extraordinary APPG meeting to deal with extraordinarily harmful FOBTs – Campaign for Fairer Gambling

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The Campaign for Fairer Gambling writes about the broad coalition of different organisations that support a reduction in FOBT stake levels to £2 against the betting companies which are reluctant to accept this and predict shop closures as a result.

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The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on FOBTs, chaired by the very hard-working Labour MP Carolyn Harris, will be holding an extraordinary meeting on March 19, in advance of the government’s imminent response to the gambling review. The APPG now has a loss tracker that shows how much has been lost on FOBTs since the DCMS review started are now at around £2.5 billion, of which over £1 billion will be from at-risk and addicted gamblers.

The extraordinary meeting will bring together the coalition of stakeholders supporting a reduction to £2, including the Royal Society for Public Health, the Local Government Association, the Church of England Synod, Bishops, Peers, MPs and the Labour Party. This reflects the growing consensus among editors, commentators, political and consumer journalists that have followed FOBTs closely, who think the only logical conclusion DCMS can come to is £2 a spin.

A group of small bookmakers even wrote to the Prime Minister in the midst of Brexit negotiations, claiming they were “the backbone of the British economy”. They even managed to get a sycophantic journalist to place this as a ‘news’ story.

The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) – the bookies’ trade body – is essentially controlled by the big two, Ladbrokes Coral and William Hill, who control the majority of betting shops between them. By signing more favourable deals with FOBT suppliers, and clustering shops near independent bookmakers, many small bookies have been forced out of business because of the predatory approach of the corporates. A few years’ ago, one independent bookie removed FOBT content from his machines unilaterally after a customer he knew committed suicide after he got addicted to it.

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