FOBTs are a mistake says Harman


Labour’s Deputy Leader Harriet Harman claimed that her party had made a “mistake” in allowing FOBTs in licensed betting offices and claimed that the decision has ruined some peoples’ lives.

The astonishing admissions were made on Channel 4’s Dispatches programme this week. Harman called for FOBTs to be banned from betting shops, claiming that they are better suited to casinos.

The programme also suggested that Britons lost more than £1bn last year on the machines, which first appeared in the UK in 2001.

But a parliamentary report by the House of Commons culture committee last month recommended lifting the limit, which it said has had the “unintended consequence of encouraging the clustering of betting shops in some high streets”.

Research for Dispatches suggested that relatively prosperous areas have about five bookmakers for every 100,000 people, while poorer areas have about 12 – with some high streets in deprived neighbourhoods seeing a cluster of 10 betting shops within a mile, each containing four Fobt machines.

Professor Jim Orford from Birmingham University told Dispatches that an estimated £297m of the money taken by FOBT machines each year comes from problem gamblers, whose habit is damaging their relationships and careers.

“Getting on for a quarter of all the profits from these machines are being contributed we think by people who’ve got problems with their gambling,” said Orford.

“My own view is that we should probably get rid of them on the high street. I don’t think casino gaming by machine belongs in the high street, I think it belongs in casinos.”

Harman told the programme: “If we had known then what we know now [about the clustering of betting shops], we wouldn’t have allowed this, because it’s not just ruining the high street, it’s ruining people’s lives.

“I got the most heartrending letters and emails and calls that I’ve ever had in 30 years of being an MP, just saying ‘Please do something about this. It’s ruined my life, it’s ruined my family, it’s really dangerous and the problem is it’s getting worse and that’s why we need the law to be changed so that something can be done about it’.

“Well, I think we were wrong, we have made a mistake and this result is the consequence and we need to do something about it.”

The Association of British Bookmakers told Channel 4: “Like any retailer, betting operators look at footfall, demand, location, rental rates and competitive presence when deciding where to open a new shop.

“Up to 80% of new shops are opened in vacant units, providing jobs and investment that would otherwise be absent.”

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Hard gambling is a very serious disease, it is a big problem especially in low income area’s. For more than 60 years the old Gaming Board of Great Britain kept a tight rein on AWR gaming in the pubs and fish and chip types locations, and only increasing the size of the payouts to match inflation, this worked, the amusement machine industry was thankful for the revenue that was derived from the AWP machines, the brewery’s were happy and the gaming board kept organized crime out of the industry.
In those day’s it was impossible to get approval for even a license to operate a machine that was only paying out less than one pound, let alone 500 pounds.

What happend, it is very obvious, our then prime minister Tony Blair was taught probably by his crony George Bush how to create an extra pension for himself, (how many houses did he own ?) and get involved with the very same people who operate gambling in the United States, those very same people that the old Gaming Board of Great Britain would have refused a license to, under the grounds of undesiables, those very same undersiables that were part of an action in the 1970′s that caused such grief to members of the British Coin Machine Industry who were accused by the Daily Mail of having connections with American Organized Crime, those being the then owners of Bally Manufacturing Company, who at that time owned the company Scientific Games, (Who now own most of the traditional British AWP manufacturers) a company still well known for its blatant bribrery of United States politicians and local government officials. With such a turn around by the British Government, we must ask ourselves have our politicians took the same path as the United States politians ?. I can remember when our trade newspaper the Coin Slot had reports of local authorities objecting to an AWP that only paid out 5 pence as a prize, every week there were reports on such objections, now our politicians are calling for more heavy gambling in our high streets when the very same politicians are trying to obliterate our traditional Seaside amusement arcades, where most people that frequent these establishments, only do so with money that they have saved for their annual holiday, and can afford to have those little flings, but when it comes to hard gambling in our high streets these very same people cannot afford to indulge in such activities on a regular basis. I agree this should be a know know. I would suggest that any politician that votes for hard gambling in our high streets, should not be voted to be re-elected by their constituants, I am sure you would soon see an about face by them when their job’s are threatend.

Freddy Bailey

Freddy Bailey
08/08/2012, 12:18

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