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Government’s £2 limit on fixed terminal gambling machines welcomed by Tower Hamlets mayor

PUBLISHED: 15:28 17 May 2018 | UPDATED: 07:45 29 May 2018

Mayor John Biggs... smiling at Fixed Odds victory over the bookies. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mayor John Biggs... smiling at Fixed Odds victory over the bookies. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

The new £2 limit being imposed on ‘fixed odds’ gambling terminals in high street betting shops by the government has been welcomed by Tower Hamlets’ “puritanical” mayor John Biggs.

Fixed terminals at the high street bookies. Picture source: William Hill's/Association of British BookmakersFixed terminals at the high street bookies. Picture source: William Hill's/Association of British Bookmakers

The £100 limit every 20 seconds on electronic casino games such as roulette is being scrapped, despite bookmakers warning it could lead to betting shops closing and staff made redundant.

But that is “good news” for the mayor campaigning for three years to stop more and more bookies opening in the East End.

“It’s about time—I want this to happen,” he told the East London Advertiser today.

“The gaming industry may talk about free choice, but it’s the same argument for smoking and drinking.

Mayor Biggs... Mayor Biggs... "Gaming industry preys on vulnerable people, causing grief and misery." Picture: Mike Brooke

I am puritanical about this - the overwhelming evidence is that we have to have rules to protect people from addictive behaviour that causes massive personal and social problems.

“The gaming industry preys on vulnerable people, causing grief and misery.”

The council has been part of a Local Government Association lobby that was led by the former mayor of neighbouring Newham, Sir Robin Wales, for the maximum stake to be cut to £2 a spin to reduce the “easy profits” and gamblers’ addiction.

It held a public consultation in 2015 to review regulations which were about to run out—and were due for another throw of the dice in 2016.

High Street betting now under threat. Picture: John CooperHigh Street betting now under threat. Picture: John Cooper

But the wrangle with the gaming industry carried on for another 18 months until the government today finally gave in to local authority pressure to stop the proliferation of betting shops in the high street.

Betting shops were largely blamed as “a source of crime and disorder” or “exploitation of vulnerable people”.

The betting industry lobby, however, claimed the issue had become “a political football which politicians of all shades seem to be happy to kick around”.

One of the big high street gaming chains, William Hill’s, which get half its revenue from fixed odds terminals, described the £2 stake limit as “unprecedented” and warned that 900 high street betting shops could become loss-making and head to job losses.

The Association of British Bookmakers had called for voluntary limit of £30 by the industry. It suggested technical changes to gaming terminals limiting the maximum anyone can gamble at a time, with screens freezing if the limit was breached, arguing that “people should be left to make their own choices”.

But this has been thrown out by the government —to the delight of local authorities like Tower Hamlets fighting to stop clusters of betting shops springing up in deprived neighbourhoods.

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