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Many in the UK consider fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) as the crack cocaine of betting, which ruins a number of person’s lives over the past few years. These terminals have rightly become the topic of heated public debate. In a move to curtail their use, last Thursday, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport issued a ruling that the stakes on these addictive machines must be reduced to £2 every 20 seconds. The earlier ceiling was from £100 for every 20 seconds.
The B2 machines are widely found in betting shops around the country and are a high-income-generating utility for the industry.
The ruling has been reached following bitter divides within government, and it is still weak in some key areas. For years, myself and others have campaigned for gambling reforms in this country. My father, David, 61, had a gambling habit, which he concealed from his family, that eventually landed him in prison. He stole £53,000 from his employers after making his way through a succession of payday loans, bank loans, credit cards and borrowing. He even remortgaged the family home in secret to keep his addiction from us. I do not blame the industry for his behaviour, but know that the addictive nature of its products lured him in, and he unfortunately became hooked.
Even while he was behind bars, his inbox was flooded with thousands of emails from firms enticing him to bet; some even sent premium-rate text messages to him in a bid to bring him back to gamble with them. This harassment of gamblers through non-stop advertising on TV, radio and online is insidious and needs to stop.
We are taking gambling addiction off the high streets and sending it online. The government has missed a trick in its regulation reforms. The Gambling Commission last year reported that online gambling was a growing area and that 18- to 24-year-olds would suffer the most. Reports showed us how advertising techniques used by the industry could entice youngsters into betting from a young age, further acclimatising them to their products, ready to make them long-term customers.
According to the charity GambleAware, 50% of all gambling is now conducted online. Its report from summer last year also showed that unemployed young men were most at risk of developing a gambling problem through the internet. I have had countless social media adverts targeted at me because I’ve been talking about gambling. I have seen how the industry uses these ads to entice young people who are not of gambling age into games with fascinating cartoons. The government should put its foot down and have these enticements stopped.
There was a 600% rise in gambling adverts between 2007 and 2012, according to research by Ofcom. I have no doubt that their pervasiveness, links to football games and heavy sponsorship of sports matches will encourage a new generation of gamblers, once FOBTs are no longer the gambling machines of choice. With this decision the government has assessed actual harm rather than potential for harm, and has taken a long time to come up with its toothless recommendation that the industry should run its own responsible gambling campaign.
Source: European Gaming Industry News