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THE government today announced that the highest stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) will be slashed from £100 to £2 in a move welcomed by Labour and campaigners.
This will cut the maximum amount that gamblers can feed into bookies’ high-speed slot machines — known as the “crack cocaine” of gambling — from £300 per minute to £6.
But a new Gambling Act is needed for the digital age, shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said, urging culture, sports and media minister Tracey Crouch to reconsider implementing a levy to fund addiction treatment, education and research.
The government’s move to cut the amount of money that gamblers can pay for a spin lasting 20 seconds was just “one part of the puzzle,” he added.
Matt Zarb-Cousin, former spokesman of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, has campaigned for five years to get the maximum stake down to £2 after he battled with a slot machine addiction.
He tweeted: “What a feeling! Knowing that with a £2 stake on FOBTs, no-one will get addicted to high-stakes roulette on bookies’ machines and go through what I did.”
He then told the BBC that Britain is the only country that allows high-speed casino games in easily accessible environments.
Tony Franklin, a campaigner from the Gambling Hurts pressure group, once lost £3,500 on FOBTs in just 39 minutes.
As recently as last September, he lost £2,740 in 42 minutes after making a spontaneous decision to drop into a bookmakers on his way to speak at a gambling conference.
He said: “The dopamine kicked in. I lost all the money out of my wallet and then another £2,740. Then I tried to get that back ... more and more money on to my card. No-one in the shop raised an eyebrow.”
The 46-year-old said he had struggled with a gambling addiction since the age of 10 or 11. When his son was two years old, the family house was repossessed.
He said: “I don’t need to be told gambling ruins lives. It’s ruined mine several times.”
Mr Franklin was finally recently diagnosed with ADHD, for which he is now being successfully treated.
He said of the government’s decision: “I hope that this decision sends shivers across the industry, that if you extract money from the poor and vulnerable, you will ultimately be held accountable.”
Bookies condemned the move, saying it would result in job losses and shop closures.
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