ABB defends B2s as potential review looms

Coinslot abb fobt tracey crouch
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A chain of events begun by a triennial review brush-off and propelled by Panorama and inquiry rumours has caused the ABB to issue a bullish defence of B2 machines.

A question in parliament over FOBT regulations has prompted another round of speculation and mainstream press coverage about the Triennial Review.

Things were kicked off last week by Ronnie Cowan, Scottish National Party MP for Invercycle, who directed a written question to Tracey Crouch, the junior DCMS minster, whose remit includes both sport and gambling. Cowan simply asked, “what steps her Department is taking to tackle problems associated with the rise in availability of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals?”

Crouch’s answer was a predictable one, echoing the rhetoric of the past 12 months that refer to a triennial review taking place at some indistinct time in the future.

“The Government tightened controls on FOBTs last year, and we are continuing to monitor developments,” said Crouch. “The next triennial review of gaming machines will look closely at all the evidence on this issue.”

However this week, on the same day that the Panorama exposé of FOBTs was aired, a question from Stephen Timms, the Labour MP for East Ham, produced a more promising response.

In her reply, Crouch said that the review was due “shortly”, although she did give any form of fixed timeline. Further questions from Conservative Helen Grant and calls for more powers to regulate FOBTs in Wales from Gerald Jones served to form a groundswell of new activity.

Over the weekend the Daily Mail also confidently stated that a “review” concerning FOBTs would imminently emerge from Westminster.

Cowan’s initial question was enough to prompt the Press Association to reach out to the DCMS and the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) for comment.

 

“Fixed-odds betting terminals have been played in betting shops for over 15 years and yet problem gambling levels have remained relatively stable before and after their introduction, at 0.5 percent of the population.”

 

While the government department simply said that it will “continue to monitor the effectiveness of existing gambling controls and will take further action if necessary,” the ABB delivered a more impassioned response which is likely to only further drive divisions between the arcade and betting shop sectors.

“The triennial review should be evidence-based and not unfairly penalise the majority who gamble responsibly and enjoy their leisure pursuit,” said an ABB spokesperson. “While 99.5 percent of the adult population gamble responsibly, for those that do develop gambling problems it is rarely, if ever, limited to just one form of gambling.

“Fixed-odds betting terminals have been played in betting shops for over 15 years and yet problem gambling levels have remained relatively stable before and after their introduction, at 0.5 percent of the population.”

The trade body’s response only touched on the problem gambling questions around FOBTs, failing to tackle the issue of machines stakes and prizes fairness.

Further, they also took a swipe at the arcade and pub industries: “High street betting shops, unlike other gambling outlets with gaming machines, do not sell alcohol, or open 24 hours a day and we don’t advertise our gaming machines. Further, our customers can set limits on the amount they spend and the time they play for.

“In July this year, we doubled the number of responsible gambling messages targeted at customers with mandatory warning alerts being displayed after 20 minutes of play or £150 spent.

“We have also voluntarily introduced a range of responsible gambling measures in the last two years that go far beyond what is required by law.”


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