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Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 3rd March 2016.

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Photo of Margaret Greenwood Margaret Greenwood Labour, Wirral West 9:30 am, 3rd March 2016

What recent representations he has received on fixed odds betting terminals.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Details of all the meetings that I and other Ministers have had with interested parties on this matter are available via the Department’s transparency returns. In addition, my officials engage regularly with all interested stakeholders to discuss gambling policy more generally, including the issue of fixed odds betting terminals.

Photo of Margaret Greenwood Margaret Greenwood Labour, Wirral West

In 2014-15, people in Wirral lost more than £2 million at fixed odds betting terminals, and more than £290,000 of that was lost in my constituency of Wirral West. Low pay and insecure work is such a feature of our economy that people cannot afford to lose large sums of money. Will the Government realise the seriousness of the risk that FOBTs pose to people on lower incomes and substantially cut the maximum stake?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I understand the concern about fixed odds betting terminals, and we keep the issue under review. The hon. Lady may be aware that, last year, we brought in new requirements that improved player protection, in particular by putting a stop to unsupervised play for stakes of over £50. It is already clear that that has had an impact on player behaviour. As far as we can see, the rate of problem gambling remains at under 1% and has not shown any sign of rising as a result of FOBTs.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

As the Secretary of State knows, the inconvenient truth is that problem gambling rates have reduced since the introduction of fixed odds betting terminals. The Campaign for Fairer Gambling claimed that each fixed odds betting terminal makes a profit of £1,000 a week. As a betting shop is open for more than 90 hours a week, that works out at an average profit of around £11 an hour. Does the Secretary of State think that that is an excessive profit rate? If he does, what does he think an acceptable profit rate would be?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

An awful lot of claims and counter-claims are made in this area, and not all of them stand up to close scrutiny. The Government intend to maintain a close watch over the issue, and any further changes that we introduce will be firmly evidence-based.