Stephen Timms has expressed his concern over figures published which showed that over £5billion was gambled on high-speed, high-stakes gambling machines in the past twelve months. £410,856,507 was gambled in Newham alone.
The figures, which have been revealed by the charity Fairer Gambling, showed there are a total of seventy six betting shops in Newham in which a total of £410,856,507 was spent on so-called fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). The machines, which have been referred to as the "crack cocaine of gambling" offer players a range of casino games allowing them to make bets of up to £100 on 20-second cycles. Customers can play with cash, or pay with credit or debit cards.
Last year, the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee called for the lifting of the ban limiting the number of high-stakes gambling machines allowed in each betting shop. Currently, bookmakers are limited to four machines per shop. Fairer Gambling argue that bookmakers often bypass this restriction by opening more branches in high streets, a practise known as “clustering”.
After hearing the figures, Stephen said: “Estimates suggest that £183,804,227 was spent in East Ham alone last year on these machines. It is a truly shocking figure. We have 34 betting shops running these machines in my constituency – we do not need them. Action needs to be taken urgently. The government must allow councils the power to decide whether or not to welcome such betting practices to their high streets.”
Hilary Benn MP, Labour’s Shadow Local Government Spokesman added: "There should be a separate use class order for betting shops under planning rules so that local communities and councils can decide how many shops they wish to have in their area.”