Maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals should be slashed, MPs say

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Maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) should be cut from £100 to £2 in a bid to stem the harm caused by problem gambling, a cross-party panel of MPs has recommended.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on FOBTs said that the maximum amount a punter can stake on a single spin should be reduced on a "precautionary" basis until companies operating them are able to prove they do not cause harm to users, their families and communities.

The high-stake, high-speed electronic casino games have been branded "the crack cocaine of gambling" by campaigners who argue that they are dangerously addictive. The Government is currently carrying out a review of regulations governing them.

In its submission to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport review, the APPG said that it had received reports of increased levels of crime resulting from the presence of FOBTs in bookmakers and said that the Government should consider not only their impact on problem gamblers but the wider cumulative harm to families and neighbourhoods.

The group's chairwoman, Labour MP for Swansea East Carolyn Harris, said: "In this interim report we note that, from the evidence presented to us, the Government now has clear case for significantly reducing the £100 stake that can be wagered on a Fixed-Odds Betting Terminal.

"The group sees a strong case for the stake being set at £2. This call is supported by many Members of Parliament from all political parties and in both Houses of Parliament, it is also supported by a significant majority of the public.

"At the very least, the stake should be reduced on a FOBT on a precautionary basis. The precautionary principle should be applied until sufficient evidence is presented to the Government that the high stakes on these machines do not cause harm rather than the onus being to prove that they do cause harm.

"The Government has a duty to protect the most vulnerable in our society and to act in the public interest. We therefore strongly urge them to properly regulate FOBTs and to do so with immediate effect."