Photo Credit: Ale Wi / Wikimedia
The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has welcomed a British government decision to bring forward restrictions on fixed-odd betting terminals (FOBTs). The machines, popular in betting shops on Britain’s High Streets, currently allow a maximum stake of £100 every 20 seconds. Earlier this year the government announced that they were reducing the maximum stake to £2.00. That had been expected to take effect next April, but in the annual budget speech, finance minister Philip Hammond said that the change wouldn’t take place until next October. Now, the government have said that the reduction would, after all, take effect next April.
The culture minister Tracey Crouch, who supported the reduction, resigned from the government following the delay. It fell to her successor, Jeremy Wright, to make the u-turn announcement in a written statement.
“After a thorough consultation with interested parties, including charities, campaigners and the gambling industry, across government we reached a decision to make this significant change in October 2019”, he said. “The Government has been clear that protecting vulnerable people is the prime concern, but that as a responsible government it is also right to take the needs of those employed by the gambling industry into account and provide time for an orderly transition. Parliament has, however, been clear that they want this change to be made sooner. The Government has listened and will now implement the reduction in April 2019.”
He added: “the Government will continue to take action to protect vulnerable people, including strengthening protections around gaming machines, online gambling, gambling advertising and treatment for problem gambling.”
Welcoming the announcement, Bishop Alan said: “It is good to see common sense and strong moral purpose trumping the financial interests of the gambling industry. These machines have caused untold misery to thousands of people and have been linked with people taking their own lives due to gambling addiction.”
He added: “I want to take this opportunity to praise the actions of the former . . . Minister, Tracey Crouch, and all the other MPs, peers and campaigners who have fought for this decision.
“Philip Hammond [Britain’s finance minister] has done the right thing and I look forward to working with him on all the other gambling issues that need to be dealt with in the future.”
Bishop Alan is now working with others to bring about restrictions to gambling-related adverts in the UK.