Poker millionnaire and TV presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell blasts government on fixed odds betting terminals

  • Poker star criticises government failure to crack down on FOBTs
  • Controversial machines enable gamblers to lose up to £500 a minute

UK poker star and TV presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell has blasted Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) and slammed the government’s failure to crack down on these machines as being the result of ‘stupidity or corruption’.

Coren Mitchell knows about betting big – here she is at the remarkable showdown of the 2014 European Poker Tour to claim her second main event.

Coren Mitchell, who is also a writer and TV presenter, was the first woman to win an event on the European Poker Tour, and the first player to win two European Poker Tour main events, and has commentated on and presented a number of televised poker competitions.

She has live earnings of nearly $2.5 million, according to the Hendon Mob poker database.

She was picking up on a hot political topic currently. The UK government has delayed its planned review of FOBTs, the controversial machines which enable players to lose up to £500 ($644) per minute, until the Fall.

Ahead of this year’s General Election, the main UK political parties had indicated that action would be taken to curb the use of FOBTs.

There was confusion this month over whether Chancellor Philip Hammond had cancelled a planned review of the machines, which bring in significant tax revenues. But reports that the review had been scrapped were branded ‘fake news’.

Family breakdown

Writing in the Guardian newspaper, Coren Mitchell referred to figures showing that in the year ending September 2016, £1,000 ($1,250) was lost in a single FOBT gambling session on 233,071 occasions, and contrasted this to the average national wage of around £25,000 ($32,000).

She pointed out that the decision of the UK government to cap the number of FOBTs at four per shop had simply led to a proliferation of betting premises on UK high streets, and she blasted the current government for what she saw as basing their approach to FOBTs on tax revenues: “The shops pay 25% duty on FOBTs (it’s much cheaper for them than horseracing). In return, we get an expensive rise in crime, theft and embezzlement, family breakdown, costly court proceedings and criminal damage as the machines are often smashed up.”

She also cited the extensive lobbying of MPs undertaken by betting companies, suggesting that this may have played a part in the decision: “The government’s failure to clamp down on fixed-odds betting terminals must be down to stupidity or corruption and I’m not sure which of those I hope it is.”

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