Christian lobby group pressuring DUP to block scrapping of review into fixed odds betting terminals

  • Christian lobbyists demand action from Northern Irish DUP
  • Future of government review into FOBTs ‘uncertain’

The debate over fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) continues in the UK, with mounting pressure on all sides ahead of a review that some sources suggest could even be scrapped.

Fixed-Odds-Betting-Terminal-(FOBT)
Fixed Odds Betting Terminal (FOBT)

The electronic gaming machines have been linked by some studies to high rates of problem gambling.

The Government has stated publicly that a review into the impact of FOBTs will be published in October at the earliest, but inside sources have suggested that the Chancellor could scrap the study entirely – leaving FOBT operators – high street bookmakers – free to continue with business as usual.

Now, the i reports that Government’s key allies in Northern Ireland are under pressure from their own support base to get the review pushed through, and to ensure action is taken on FOBTs.

This could prove awkward for the British Conservatives, who will need DUP support to pass their Brexit plan in the coming months and years, so can not be seen to be dismissive of their demands.

FOBT debate continues

Fixed odds betting terminals have recently been linked with high instances of problem gambling.

Popular TV shows, newspapers and radio shows have all raised the question of maximum stakes on FOBTs, which are currently capped at £100 ($125) per wager.

Bets are made every twenty seconds on average, so players are able to spend (and potentially lose) high sums in a short time.

Opposition politicians in the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties pledged to reduce FOBT stakes to £2 per bet,
and have added their voice to the campaign.

Bookmakers and game operators have hit back, saying that the £100 option gives high rollers a chance to play on FOBTs and that reducing the maximum stake would harm their bottom line.

The high street betting shop is already struggling against online demand, and reducing FOBT wins could be the final nail in the coffin. Shops would be forced to close and thousands of jobs could be lost.

Bookmakers argue that limiting account withdrawals and improving support services would have a greater impact on problem gamblers than reducing FOBT stakes.

Government under pressure from DUP

The May election left the British Government in the difficult position of relying on an awkward marriage with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to have a controlling majority in the House of Commons.

The DUP takes a hardline stance on many issues, including gambling, and some members would prefer FOBTs to be banned entirely. However, the Conservatives have hinted that a review into FOBT stakes could be dropped, which would take the chance for reform off the table.

The i reports that CARE, a Christian lobby group, has approached the party and asked them to “use their influence” to get bet stakes reduced.

With the Conservatives relying on the DUP in key areas like Brexit and foreign policy, it remains to be seen what impact this will have on any forthcoming review.

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