DUP Under Pressure to Stop Alleged Government Plans to Scrap Gambling Review

Monthly archive

7th Aug 2017
Rachael Adams
  • Northern Ireland has the highest rate of problem gamblers in the UK: Tax revenue must not dictate long overdue action needed to regulate ‘crack cocaine of gambling’

CARE for Northern Ireland is very concerned by the reports that surfaced over the weekend that Chancellor Philip Hammond apparently has called for the Government’s review of gambling to be scrapped, questioning specifically the reduction in the maximum stake per spin of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).

FOBTs have been linked closely to crippling debt, crime, mental health issues, marriage and family breakdown and in extreme cases – suicide.

The machines, dubbed the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ are highly addictive; gamblers can bet £100 every 20 seconds on the machines. FOBT’s contributed to 96 per cent of all losses over £1,000 in betting shops.

Northern Ireland has more than four times as many problem gamblers than in England with 11.6% of males likely to be deemed a ‘moderate risk or problem gambler’. While policy on gambling is devolved to Northern Ireland, it is well known that policy in this area in England and Wales will have a significant impact on the practices of gambling companies in Northern Ireland. 

At the beginning of the year The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) published its report on the machines highlighting the devastating impact that FOBTs have had on society and called on the government to act.

There has been continuous support from both the general public, the media and from Members of Parliament across all political parties to significantly reduce the £100 stake that can be wagered on FOBTs down to £2.

Reports suggest the reason for scrapping the review is the considerable tax revenue that FOBTs generate each year for the Government - around £400m in tax a year.

CARE for Northern Ireland’s Policy Officer Mark Baillie

“Gambling is a significant problem in Northern Ireland – there are more than four times as many problem gamblers here than in England. The policy of the British Government with regard to FOBTs has a significant impact on the practices of gambling companies in Northern Ireland. Consequently, any proposals to scrap the gambling review are sorely misplaced.”

“If the government shelves this review they would be placing much more value on the tax revenue collected from these machines than to the harm they cause to society and to vulnerable people.”

“FOBTs are predominantly found clustered in economically deprived areas and there is a mounting concern that their presence there deliberately targets vulnerable people.”

“Now that the DUP play a significant role in ensuring the Conservative Government remain in power they must hold Theresa May and the Conservative Party to account over their commitment to create a fairer society. FOBT’s do not fit into this narrative - they may work for the bookmakers and the taxman – but not for problem gamblers, their families or society as a whole.”

“If additional revenues need to be raised pressure needs to be placed on the Prime Minister and Chancellor to find other means of doing so that do not depend on the exploitation of vulnerable people.”

“This review is long overdue and much needed – the DUP must ensure that it goes ahead and the proposals recommended to reduce the stakes on FOBTs are introduced. Plans such as this are a step in the right directions towards tackling problem gambling right across the United Kingdom.” 

Ends

Notes to the editor:

For more information please contact Rachael Adams on 020 7227 4731 / 07851 153693 or rachael.adams@care.org.uk

CARE is a leading charity that works with MPs, Peers, MSPs, and MLAs to lobby for changes in legislation relating to human dignity. You can read about the success we’ve had and our latest work here.

CARE has spoken out about the damage of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals for many years and CARE’s Director of Parliamentary Affairs gave evidence at the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and called on the government to reduce the stakes on the machines from £100 to £2 per spin.

To read the 2016 Northern Ireland Gambling Prevalence Survey click here

Research shows that 1/3 of betting shops are in the most deprived council wards in Northern Ireland

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