Government urged to reconsider reducing FOBT stakes

21 December 2015 in Community safety and Young people
Calls to lower the stakes on fixed odds betting terminals, the “crack cocaine” of gambling, is back on the government’s agenda as it is challenged to reconsider Newham Council’s Sustainable Communities Act (SCA) submission.
The Local Government Association (LGA) is supporting the resubmission of Newham’s SCA, which is backed by a quarter of England’s councils from across the political spectrum, and aims to protect the nation’s high streets from the proliferation of bookmakers.

Having listened to evidence from Newham Council, the LGA, who is acting as a “mediator” in the Sustainable Communities Act process, resubmitted the application to the Department for Communities and Local Government on Friday 18 December.

In November 2014, 93 local authorities representing 23 million people, demanded that the government reduce the maximum stakes on FOBTs from £100 to £2, in line with gaming machines available in bingo halls and arcades. It was the largest ever submission using the Act, which is meant to enable councils to lobby the government on the issues that affect their local communities. Despite the unprecedented support for the submission the government rejected the call in July of this year.

Newham Council argues that the high stakes and licensing restrictions on these gaming machines has led to the clustering of betting shops, which are damaging already vulnerable local economies and often resulting in anti-social behaviour.

Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham, welcomed the latest development. He said: “These fast-paced, electronic roulette wheels have sucked the life blood out of local economies. By reducing the profits made on these machines bookmakers will be forced to think again about their shop numbers.

“We want our local high streets to thrive. In Newham, our efforts to prevent bookies opening have been continually thwarted by lax planning rules and a not fit for purpose legal system. The government must now listen, and not miss this opportunity to act in support of 93 councils representing an astounding 23 million people.”
The LGA will now spend the next six months negotiating with the government to reduce the stakes on FOBTs.