Calls for Scottish councils to back betting changes
Scottish councils have been urged to throw their weight behind a campaign to limit the amount of money that can be gambled on controversial gaming machines in betting shops.
A proposal calling on the UK Government to reduce the maximum stake per spin on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2 - tabled under the Sustainable Communities Act by Newham Council in east London – has been backed by dozens of councils south of the border.
Whilst the legislation does not apply to Scotland, local authorities are being called on to send a message to government ministers by passing motions backing Newham’s campaign.
Introduced more than a decade ago, FOBTs now number 34,000 nationwide – 4,000 of which are in Scotland – allowing punters to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on roulette.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling has labelled the machines the “crack cocaine of gambling” amid estimates that £822m in cash was inserted into FOBTs in Scotland and a total of £156m lost in 2013-14 alone.
However, the Association of British Bookmakers has insisted the evidence base for their addictive nature is absent whilst a number betting shops UK-wide would be at risk were stakes to be reduced.
The Responsible Gambling Trust is expected to publish research into FOBTs next month.
At a recent SNP fringe, representatives of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling were asked how a Scottish council could put its weight behind the bid to restrict the maximum stake.
“Basically, you pass a motion backing what Newham is doing - that is massive with that weight to it,” said Adrian Parkinson of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling.
“That is something I would like to do in Scotland, to get as many councils in Scotland behind what Newham is doing. Obviously, it can’t count as a vote to support Newham but actually backing them would put pressure on DCMS [Department for Culture, Media and Sport] and DCLG [Department for Communities and Local Government].”
SNP MSP Stuart McMillan, who was chairing the fringe, intimated the issue could be raised among Scotland’s 32 councils via COSLA.
“Obviously, that particular legislation doesn’t apply to Scotland but to start having that discussion within COSLA may well be a route forward in Scotland as well,” he added.