Councils slam Tories over backroom deal with bookies

More than £3.6 billion will be lost to the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling unless the government reneges on a deal with the bookies, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.

The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, has warned the government that any delay in cutting the maximum bet to £2 on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTS), is ‘unacceptable’.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA Safer and Stronger Communities Board said:

“The harm and anti-social behaviour these machines can cause has become an issue of growing national concern. Councils are extremely concerned about reports that the betting industry are blocking an early implementation.

“This is hugely worrying and frankly unacceptable. The Government needs to resist any pressure and move quickly to implement these changes to prevent further harm in our society.”

The Gambling Commission estimates that around £5 million a day is lost to FOBTs, which can see gamblers lose hundreds of pounds within seconds.

The problem is particularly acute in Scotland - Glasgow is the worst affected city in the whole of the UK, with £27 million lost each year to FOBTs. The LGA has also estimated a cost to public services of around £200 million per year to deal with the damage caused by the highly addictive machines.

Tom Watson MP, Labour’s Deputy Leader, backed the LGA’s call for immediate implementation, saying:

“This cynical move by the Government serves nobody but the bookies. Whilst the Government delays this meaningful and important reform, the bookies stand to make nearly £4 billion from those who can least afford gambling losses.

“Any delay of the promised reforms to bring stakes down on FOBTs to £2 will simply heap more misery on those individuals affected by gambling addiction, their families and their communities.

“The Government must deliver on its promises and cut these stakes now.”

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