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Brighton and Hove councillors call for limits on 'crack cocaine' gambling machines
Betting shop gaming machines - dubbed the “crack cocaine of gambling” - should be placed under strict restrictions, according to Brighton and Hove councillors.
Fixed Odds Betting terminals - otherwise known as FOBTs - allow gamers to wager up to £100 every 20 seconds on virtual roulette, blackjack and video slots games.
According to the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, punters in Sussex gambled more than £1 billion on the machines last year - including £270 million in Brighton and Hove.
But Brighton and Hove city councillors have unanimously backed a move to see if it can legally limit FOBT stakes down to just £2 a spin, citing research that suggests the machines are the most addictive form of gambling.
A motion presented by the council's Labour Group also referred to research that found there were “four times as many betting shops in areas of high unemployment than in areas of low unemployment” and that “half of bookmakers' profits came from FOBTs”.
Emma Daniel, Labour councillor for Hanover and Elm Grove, who presented the motion, said: “These fixed odds machines are the super strength alcohol of the betting industry.
“Indeed some critics have gone further and dubbed them the "crack cocaine" of gambling.
“They create huge negative impacts on individuals and families and we need to reduce this harm.”
The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) said problem gambling across all gambling products had remained at less than 1% since 1999 - and had declined recently in the UK.
Dirk Vennix, the organisation's chief executive, said the ABB did acknowledge that some customers have problems with gaming machines.
He added: “That's why the ABB has launched a new code of conduct which is designed to help protect players and encourage responsible gambling, especially for those that play on machines.
“Ground breaking measures being brought forward voluntarily by the industry include mandatory alerts and voluntary player limits on time and money spent on a machine.
“We are convinced that these measures will have a real impact on customers who are at risk of experiencing problems in our shops.
“In contrast, we believe that a reduction in stake would have very little, if any, impact on problem or illegal gambling.
“Instead, it would automatically put at risk around 7,800 shops and 39,000 jobs in the UK, including nearly 50 shops and around 250 jobs in Brighton.”
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