Bring in tougher laws to limit betting shop gaming terminals to £2 maximum, Tower Hamlets Council urges
PUBLISHED: 11:20 24 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:30 24 January 2018
Tougher laws are being urged by Tower Hamlets Council to protect 3,000 ‘problem gamblers’ in London’s East End from gaming machines.
Recommendations have been sent to the government following public consultations on proposed changes to Fixed Odds gaming machine regulations in high street betting shops and casinos.
A staggering £20 million was lost by gambling addicts in 2016 on the 292 gaming terminals in betting shops in the area, according to the authority.
“Problem gambling affects health and wellbeing of addicts and their families,” Mayor John Biggs said.
“Legislation at the moment is getting in the way of our efforts to improve people’s lives in disadvantaged communities.
“I urge the government to look at our recommendations and other local authorities to help people struggling with this cruel addiction.”
Tower Hamlets and other local authorities have been pressing the government since 2015 for curbs on gaming terminals in high street betting shops.
Gaming terminals currently allow a maximum £100 stake and maximum £500 prize.
But players can bet every 20 seconds—which means addicts can lose huge sums quickly, hitting their family’s income.
The council wants the maximum stake reduced to £2 and stronger regulation in high street and town centre planning to limit betting shops in a given area.
Betting shops concentrated in areas of social deprivation sparked a campaign in 2014 to restrict planning applications for high street betting shops and restricting gaming terminals.
But there has been a “significant expansion” of betting shops since then, according to the Tower Hamlets Fairness Commission, which led to public consultations launched by the mayor in 2015.
Pawn brokers and payday loan shops commonly located close by create temptation for gambling, borrowing and hocking family possessions.
A ‘code for responsible gambling’ was drawn up in 2014 by the Association of British Bookmakers, representing bookies such as William Hill, recognising gaming machines “can cause harm to a minority of people”, putting in technical changes allowing players to set voluntary limits.
Andrew Lyman, from William Hill’s, said at the time: “We don’t want to make profits from problem gamblers and will impose our own controls more quickly than the government. The industry wants ensure that a flutter at the bookies doesn’t become a thing of the past.”
At least one-in-100 of the East End’s population are “problem gamblers”—twice the national average—with another three per cent at risk of becoming addicted, Tower Hamlets Council estimates. Research shows that winnings are usually spent on more gambling rather than in the home.