Council chiefs have called on the Government to resist pressure from the betting industry to delay reform of the laws governing gambling machines.
The Government agreed last May to reduce the maximum permitted stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT) from £100 to £2, acting on the recommendations of the Gambling Commission.
The aim of the reform is to tackle problem gambling which, as well as harming individuals and communities, costs the public purse around £200m a year because of the impact on public services, such as health, housing and the justice system.
Over the weekend, however, the Local Government Association (LGA) warned the legislation may be delayed by two years due to ‘unacceptable’ pressure from the betting shop industry.
They warned that during this delay £3.6bn could be lost by people using FOBTs.
‘The LGA and others have campaigned for a number of years for a reduction in maximum stakes on FOBTs and are delighted the Government has rightly acted on our calls,’ said Cllr Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA Safer and Stronger Communities Board.
‘Bringing the FOBT stake down to £2 will help to reduce problem gambling and its devastating impacts on individuals and communities. It will help prevent vulnerable players from losing £100 in seconds in a single play, which many people cannot afford to lose.
‘The harm and anti-social behaviour these machines can cause has become an issue of growing national concern. Councils are extremely concerned about reports that the betting industry are blocking an early implementation.
‘This is hugely worrying and frankly unacceptable. The Government needs to resist any pressure and move quickly to implement these changes to prevent further harm in our society.’
The LGA also warned the Treasury last April not to ‘block’ plans to reduce the maximum stakes offered by betting machines.