Last night, Stephen spoke in the final stages of the Deferred Legislation Committee on Gaming Machines. This marks the last hurdle of a long standing campaign to reduce the maximum stakes on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals to £2. Stephen has consistently supported this move and, along with several Labour Colleagues, he has been actively pushing for a reduced stake over the last five years.
The current maximum stake of £100 on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (or ‘FOBTs’) is fifty times higher than that of most other machines. In 2015/16 there were over 230,000 incidences of users losing over £1,000 in a single session on FOBTs.
Problem gambling affects 430,000 people in the UK annually. Aside from being ruinous to the individual, it also incurs a huge cost to the Government. An estimated £1.5bn per year is spent on social welfare linked to this problem. Findings by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) note that the main beneficiaries of a reduction to a £2 stake will be those from deprived areas or on lower incomes. Indeed, there are twice as many betting shops in the poorest 55 boroughs of the UK - Newham included.
Speaking during yesterday’s committee meeting, Stephen said: “We were warned in the course of this campaign that if it succeeded in reducing the maximum stake to £2, the danger was that the number of betting shops could be halved. I must say, if the number of betting shops in East Ham falls by only 50%, I shall be very disappointed. I hope we will see a much larger reduction than that”.
Stephen is the Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on FOBTs and during yesterday’s Committee Meeting, he paid tribute to the APPG Chair Carolyn Harris MP for the work she has done to make this change come about. The passage of this legislation follows the resignation of Tracy Crouch MP who left the Government last month in protest at delays with the reduction to the £2 stake.