FOBTs feature in gritty BBC drama ‘Broken’ as UK Parliament move to consider legal status

  • TV series tackles social issues including gambling
  • Fixed odds terminals in spotlight after election campaign

A new BBC series which tackles social issues in Northern England has taken up the debate about fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), which are causing some controversy in the UK right now. The dramatic story links the lives of a priest and his community as they face a variety of common social issues, from poverty to problem gambling.

It has received a largely positive response from critics, with around 4 million viewers tuning in each week.

FOBTs in the spotlight

Fixed odds betting terminals are very popular with gamblers, allowing them to make fast and easy bets on simulated horse racing events, roulette games and poker hands without the need to mark slips and queue for the counter each time. However, this convenience might also have a negative effect on players prone to problem gambling: FOBTs allow for a large amount of money to be wagered in a very short space of time.

It is this issue which political parties and gambling awareness groups wish to change. Gambler support groups and political parties argue that FOBTs are harmful and lead to a higher rate of problem gambling, while bookmakers and other parties say that the betting terminals are not the problem, and that losing the machines would harm business.

One popular proposal is to reduce the maximum bet from £100 to £2, so less can be spent (and lost) per wager. Bookmakers say this would harm profits in a major way.

British Primer Minister Theresa May was recently quizzed over FOBTs during Prime Ministers Questions by Labour MP Jo Stevens.

‘Broken’ episode portrays anger at FOBTs

In the BBC drama, one character succumbs to a gambling addiction and steals money to fuel her habit. She makes the decision to take her own life, leaving her children without their mother. This is the extreme side of gambling addiction, but safety advocates argue that the reality of those extremes should be shown. The community’s anger in the latest episode is directed at the FOBTs themselves.

While the audience may have appreciated that anger and even empathized with it, bookmakers and gambling advocates are sure to find the drama a little too politically charged.

With a Government debate over the legal status of FOBTs due to take place after October of this year, both sides of the argument will want their voice heard and will be looking to state their case to the public and to the ministers who will vote on the matter.

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