I view with interest the announcement today that the government has launched a 12 week consultation to “ensure stronger protections around online gambling”, alongside a package of measures intended to promote responsible gambling, including reducing the maximum stake of FOBTs from £100 to between £50 and £2. Though I think that we are all impatient for the government to make a move on this, I understand that there are procedural hoops to jumps through. I am however, a little alarmed that a £50 stake might still be on the table. I wonder if the government needs reminding of a few points.
The primary purpose of a betting shop is….BETTING. A while back betting companies saw a legal loophole in this and they created a machine that allows punters to “bet” upon the outcome of the spin of a virtual wheel. You can spin this however the hell you like, but this is GAMING.
This proves incredibly profitable to the bookies, and FOBTs spread around the county with all the vigour of Japanese Knotweed. Our government then cracked down on them by only allowing 4 FOBTs per site. So, the bookies open more branches. Local authorities are powerless to stop them as, amazingly, betting shops fall under the same planning rules as financial institutions. All the bookies need to do is take over any recently closed bank branches, Lord knows there were plenty of them, particularly in deprived areas.
Then, today on BBC Breakfast, a representative for the bookmakers, cautions us that reducing the maximum stake from £100 to £2 will result in the closure of a great many betting shops causing the loss of thousands of jobs. Well, as you can clearly see, these betting shops shouldn’t exist in the first place, and, their very existence has already caused the loss of a great many jobs in AGCs, bingo halls and FECs up and down the country.
I call upon the government to stand up to the insidious bookmakers, do the right thing and make the maximum stake £2.