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The myth-makers myth-leading parliamentarians

Campaign for Fairer Gambling

4 min read Partner content

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling responds to some of the claims about the fixed odds betting terminals found in high street betting shops.

As the cold reality of a winter morning wakes up the bookies, their trade body, the ABB, has spluttered into action, firing on one-cylinder, rehashing yesterday’s broken, worn-out arguments.

“Myths & Machines” landed on Parliamentarians’ desks last week, lacking reference to any research or evidence in support of the assertions the glossy brochure made. Just as the Campaign rebutted the ABB 2013 version, it is easy to rebut the 2016 version:

Myth    Betting shops are the safest places to gamble responsibly.

Fact     All evidence points to betting shops being the most dangerous places to gamble and even the most dangerous high street premises to work in or visit.

Myth    FOBTs are not “the crack cocaine of gambling”.

Fact     Robust independent research shows that FOBTs are more associated with disordered gambling than any other form of gambling.

Myth    FOBTs are not uniquely addictive.

Fact     Robust independent research shows that FOBT harm exceeds the combined harm of all other licensed bricks-and-mortar gambling activities.

Myth    FOBT gamblers are not regularly betting high stakes over long periods.

Fact     Around two million FOBT gamblers lost over £1.7 billion last year, an average of over £850 per FOBT gambler. Discounting infrequent gamblers and gamblers at stakes below £2, regular FOBT gamblers at stakes in excess of £2 are losing thousands of pounds per year. Bookies only recognise the end of a session when the machine has shown no activity for 30 seconds. The reality is that an individual FOBT user, particularly those who are addicted, will participate in multiple sessions per day, across different machines, often in different betting shops.   

Myth    Bookmakers do not actively target problem gamblers.

Fact     FOBTs are more prominent in deprived areas where the demographic is more vulnerable to gambling harm.

Myth    Reducing FOBT maximum stakes will not reduce gambling related harm.

Fact     There is no research to support this position and robust independent research contradicts it.

Myth    Betting shops are in decline

Fact     FOBTs have resulted in betting shops being open twice as many hours as ten years ago. Shops have relocated to town centres, often clustering to take advantage of FOBT addicts moving from shop to shop playing multiple sessions of FOBT gambling.

Myth    FOBTs are not associated with violence in betting shops.

Fact     Attacks on staff and damage to FOBTs and premises are increasing in frequency and intensity.

Myth    Industry measures promote responsible gambling

Fact     There is no independent evidence that there has been any reduction in the totality of FOBT harm as a consequence of any of these measures.

The Evidence pages at Stop the FOBTs and the Campaign for Fairer Gambling rebuts the ABB myths, for the second time. The Campaign has made an evidence based submission to the APPG on FOBTs and appeared at an APPG hearing. To the best of our knowledge the ABB has yet to either provide any such submission or to agree to attend a hearing.

The ABB represents the financial interests of its corporate members, whereas the Campaign cannot financially benefit from FOBT stake reduction. The ABB states that vested interest groups use the “crack cocaine” description. Pubs and arcades in particular have had their commercial interest harmed by FOBTs. Surely they have as much right to speak out against them as the ABB does to speak for them?

Another ABB rehash came in the form of Christopher Snowdon of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) who wrote to Parliamentarians excusing FOBTs, by referencing the 2010 National Prevalence Survey headline figure of pathologically addicted gamblers as a percentage of total population at all gambling activities. Those at the very extreme of gambling addiction are only one measure. The tobacco turned FOBT lobbyist ignores more FOBT focused research that shows more than a third of regular FOBT users are experiencing problems.

NatCen research for the Responsible Gambling Trust, the “official” British research, showed that 80% of FOBT gamblers have difficulties at average stakes of £13.40 per spin on the above £2 stake content, compared to 20% of gamblers at stakes below £2. The maximum stake on FOBTs being in excess of £2 is impossible to justify when other machines in other outlets are at a £2 maximum.

Are there still any Parliamentarians who think that the IEA has any credibility on this issue? Are there still any Parliamentarians who think that the ABB FOBT “facts” are more factual than the Campaign facts?

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