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By Connie Osborne Friday 10 January 2014 Updated: 10/01 16:19
CALLS have been made for Redditch Borough Council to have more control over betting machines labelled the ‘crack cocaine’ of High Street gambling.
Rebecca Blake, Labour parliamentary spokeswoman for Redditch, is backing her party’s bid to give councils the power to limit the number of Fixed Odds Betting Terminal machines in the borough.
Ms Blake said she wanted to pull the plug on the addictive casino style machines which invite bets of up to £100 every 20 seconds. In 2011/12 £26.5million was bet on the borough’s 25 high stakes machines.
Labour forced a Parliamentary debate on the issue on Wednesday (January 8) but were defeated by Government MPs, including Redditch’s Karen Lumley.
Ms Blake said: “This is another example of the Tory led Government having the wrong priorities.
“We don’t want local bookies to be turned into High Street casinos.”
But Mrs Lumley said while she had serious concerns about the machines it was premature to decide what action to take ahead of the publication of a government review into the issue next month.
“It wasn’t us that introduced these machines,” she said.
“These opposition debates are designed to make a political point against the Government on whatever issue it may be which is all very well but what do they achieve? Let’s wait for the report, see what the facts and figures are and then it’s time to make a decision.
“But I do understand for people who have got an addictive personality or a gambling problem these machines are very dangerous pieces of equipment, it’s similar to people going into pubs and getting 50p pints of beer.”
But Dirk Vennix, chief executive of the Association of British Bookmakers, said the move would not help problem gamblers but was simply about playing politics with the jobs of 40,000 workers.
“Gaming machines are not new and have been played and enjoyed by our customers for 12 years and no evidence has ever been produced to show they are any more addictive that any other product, whether a casino table game or scratch card,” he said.
“While you could bet £100 in one go, hardly anyone does. The data from betting shop operators and machine manufacturers shows the average customer plays for about 10 to 15 minutes and spends only £7.55 which is less than the price of a cinema ticket.”
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