There is a long history of betting shops in many communities and I appreciate that they make a significant contribution to the economy and provide employment for many people in our constituency and across the country.
The success and sustainability of our high streets is also important and although I recognise that many people enjoy gambling as a leisure pursuit, there is also growing public concern about high-speed gaming machines and the evidence from gambling addiction treatment experts which shows that these machines are highly addictive and can cause real harm.
I am particularly concerned about high-speed gaming machines. According to official data, the amount British gamblers lost on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) – which currently allow users to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds – increased from £1 billion in 2009 to £1.8 billion in 2016.
Evidence from the Gambling Commission – the independent regulator – also shows that we have 430,000 gambling addicts and 2 million vulnerable players at risk of developing an addiction. This is clearly very concerning. FOBTs are highly addictive, particularly to problem gamblers and can cause real harm to individuals, their families and local communities.
The Government has now responded to its review into this matter and has acknowledged that millions of people enjoy gambling responsibly and has committed to supporting a healthy gambling industry that generates employment and investment.
However, the review concluded that gambling can involve a serious risk of harm to individual players, as well as their families and the communities they live in. The Government believes there is a clear case for making a targeted intervention in relation to FOBTs and anticipates that the cap will reduce the ability of problem gamblers to suffer high session losses.
I welcome the decision to reduce the maximum stake for FOBTs to £2 a spin because of the lasting damage these machines can cause. This measure will not be a silver bullet for the wider epidemic of problem gambling but in my view, it will go a long way to solving what has been a particular problem for too long.