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Express & Star comment: Fixed-odds betting machines needed to be curbed

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

It is a rare occurrence for politicians from different parties come together for the greater good.

The highest stake on fixed-odds betting machines is to be cut to £2

But that is exactly what has happened over the issue of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

These gambling machines have come to dominate betting shops.

They have become so popular in recent years that bookmakers often open multiple outlets in the same street, enabling them to get around laws limiting the number of machines in one shop.

The effect has been devastating, with gamblers being able to feed up to £100 a time into FOBTs.

Now, thanks in no small part to some hard campaigning by Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, the Government has seen sense and reduced the maximum stake to £2.

This is a victory for common sense.

Mr Watson – who argued a powerful case for a significant reduction in maximum stake levels – his opposite number Matt Hancock, and Sports Minister Tracey Crouch deserve great credit for their work on such an important issue.

It is impossible to understate the horrendous impact that FOBTs have had on people in this country.

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As a result of this new legislation, vulnerable people will be protected from harm.

Despite what bookmakers may say, this is not a move that is against their industry.

The gambling industry must act in a responsible and reasonable manner.

The rise in problem gambling sparked by these machines has been a symptom of the industry failing in its duty.

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While the major gambling firms have been happy to hoover up huge profits from the machines, they have rarely reinvested in supporting the local economies in which they operate.

The industry now says shops will close, with job losses coming as a result.

But it is up to bookmakers to take responsibility for the wellbeing of the people they serve.

While FOBTs will take all the headlines, the Government's review also looks at the radical shift of the industry online, which has meant that for addicts, there is simply no respite.

The tighter regulation of online gambling is the next battle for campaigners. It will not be an easy one.

For the time being at least, ministers have put the interests of local communities before big business.

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