Call to control slot machines

Bedford Borough Councillor Sarah-Jane Holland PNL-151014-101211001
Bedford Borough Councillor Sarah-Jane Holland PNL-151014-101211001

The Liberal Democrats in Bedford are calling on the Government to give local authorities more power to deal with addictive betting machines.

The group at Borough Hall is hoping new legislation will allow councils to tackle Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), which are placed in betting shops and can see punters loose up to £100 in just 20 seconds.

This stake is far more than any other machine, and the fast-pace has been cited as a significant factor in problem gambling. 

Bedford Borough Council’s Statement of Gambling Licensing Principles is due for review, and Lib Dem Councillors have won agreement through the Licensing Committee for a statement about safeguards against these machines to be included for consultation.

Vice-Chair of the Licensing Committee Cllr Sarah Holland said it is estimated people have lost £4million in the borough, and these machines account for approximately 50 percent of high street bookmakers’ profits.

She said: “This is outrageous, but councils currently do not have the power to tackle these addictive machines.

“That is why we have asked for views on a statement about safeguards against them being placed in the council’s Statement of Gambling Licensing Principles, as well as this call on the Government to devolve more powers to councils.”

The move has the backing of national campaign group Stop the FOBTs. Spokesman Matt Zarb-Cousin said FOBTs bring casino games, such as roulette, into the high street.

He said: “A casino is normally a planned night out. It is social and slower, with the ball rolling every three to four minutes. On the high street, its a solitary and immersive activity, where players are highly likely to become addicted.

“If local authorities supported the campaign, a lot of problems in their area would be resolved such as problem gambling, violent crime and money laundering.”

“Anything that strengthens local authority power, we’d be behind it.”

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