Labour: Give councils power to ban gambling machines

Published on Friday, 20 December 2013 12:21
Written by Govtoday staff

Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, today announces that the next Labour government will pass legislation giving councils the power to rid their communities of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.

On a visit to Kilburn in London he will cite evidence showing that deprived communities - and people who can least afford it - are being targeted by firms placing FOBTs where punters can bet £300 a minute or £18,000 an hour.

And he will set out how the next Labour government will give local authorities the right to decide to stop the spread of FOBTs, cut their number, or ban them all together:

"In town and cities across Britain today, you can see how the old bookies are being turned into mini casinos. In the poorest areas, these are spreading like an epidemic along high streets with the pawn shops and pay day lenders that are becoming symbols of Britain's cost-of-living crisis.

"In Newham there are 87 betting shops with an estimated 348 machines and across the five Liverpool constituencies there are 153 betting shops with around 559 FOBTs. This has huge consequences for our communities, causing debt and misery for families, and often acting as a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour.

"But currently, there is almost nothing that can be done to stop the spread of FOBTs. Laws passed restricting betting shops to a maximum of four of these betting machines has meant more betting shops in clusters sometimes open from 7.30am to 10pm at night.

"The time has come to give local communities the right to pull the plug on these machines - the right to decide if they want their high streets to be the place for high stakes, high speed, high cost gambling."

Clive Efford MP, Labour's Shadow Minister for Sport, added: "Betting shop operators have been in denial that there is a problem. We will make sure that councillors have the powers to respond when concerns are raised in their local communities."

Ed Miliband will set out three specific reforms:

Planning Powers: Labour will legislate to put betting shops in a separate use class so that councils can use planning powers to control the number opening in their area

Detail: Currently betting shops are an A2 use class (financial and professional services) which means that a betting shop can open in any premise that used to be a bank, building society, estate agent, employment agency etc without needing planning permission. This has enabled the spread of these shops on the high street with local authorities being unable to stop it. This change would require betting companies to seek planning permission if they wanted to open in a premise that wasn't a former betting shop. Local authorities would, in turn, have the ability to ration and manage the number and location of these shops in their area.

Licensing Powers: Labour will legislate to give councils the power to revoke or reduce the number of FOBTs in betting shops

Detail: Local authorities currently grant licenses for Betting Shops but have no powers to restrict the number of FOBTs. We would modify the Gambling Act to give councils powers to review betting shop licenses in their area and retrospectively reduce the number of machines in existing betting shops (e.g. from 4 through to 0) in response to local concerns.

Mitigating harm: Labour will legislate to reduce the harm caused by these machines by increasing the time between plays, requiring pop-ups and breaks in play

Detail: B2 machines are high speed games with only 20 seconds between games and no required break in play. Critics have argued that this is what makes these machines addictive. It is the immersive nature of these games that lulls people into losing more money than they intend. To mitigate the harm of these machines we will introduce a series of measures:

  • Increase the time between plays to at least 40 seconds (double the current average of 20 seconds)
  • Introduce pop ups that warn players how long they have played, how much they have betted and lost
  • Require breaks in play so players have to go to the cash desk after they have been on the machines for a particular period of time
  • Where they have FOBT machines, expect operators to have at least two members of staff present at all times. If they fail to comply with this we will make this a licensing condition of form betting shops that have FOBT machines.

Source: Labour Party

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