The U.K. government had postponed its response to a report on the 2005 Gambling Act by a select committee of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, a decision that effectively removes the spotlight, at least for now, from the controversial fixed-odds betting terminals operating in betting shops nationwide.
The machines, which can be found in nearly every bookmaking shop, offer slot machine and roulette-style games with wins up to £500 possible, and their proliferation in recent years is a major social concern. Their numbers are limited by the Gambling Act to four terminals per betting shop. The DCMS committee, however, has recommended lifting that cap, a move that would significantly boost bookmakers’ bottom lines and likely spark a political firestorm.
Critics and a growing number of MPs say the machines are dangerously addictive and must be curbed. Yet, many insiders believe the Conservative government isn’t willing to take on the powerful bookmaking industry, especially as it pays more than a quarter of a billion pounds in tax every year.
In the meantime, opposition to the FOBTs continues to grow in Parliament. Last month, Liberal Democrat Communities Minister Don Foster called for the maximum stake to be £2, and claimed to have Prime Minister David Cameron and other political leaders lined up in opposition to lifting the cap.
“For too long this problem has been swept under the carpet. There’s no doubt this is ruining people’s lives,” Foster said.