The promise to slash the maximum stake is welcome – but more must be done to tackle problem gambling
The government’s promise to slash the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to just £2 is both welcome and long overdue. Matt Hancock, the digital, culture, media and sport secretary, was right to describe the UK’s 33,000 machines as a “social blight” preying on some of the most vulnerable in society.
A bit of fun? A little flutter? Hardly, when users can wager £100 every 20 seconds in the grip of an anxious, joyless compulsion. The government’s evidence is damning: in England, 13.6% of players of such machines are problem gamblers – the highest rate for any major gambling activity. Players are disproportionately likely to live in areas of high deprivation. And those who are unemployed are more likely to most often stake £100 than any other socioeconomic group. The buzz of gambling depends on uncertainty, but these machines have ensured two things: huge profits for the high street bookmakers that house them, and misery for a significant number of their users – and those gamblers’ families. In a single year, there were more than 233,000 cases of individual gamblers losing more than £1,000.