Lucy today reacted to the Government’s disappointing response to Labour's calls for action on FOBTs and the clustering of betting shops. This issue is particularly important for Manchester, where the amount spent in betting shops annually is greater than the council’s budget.
The Government announced yesterday that Local Authorities will be given new powers to deal with betting shops trying to open in their areas, and have proposed that stakes of over £50 will require permission from staff.
The Government's announcements on limits for FOBTs are extremely disappointing. Only 7% of plays on FOBTs are above £50, meaning that the limit announced by the Government will have little impact. The proposed restrictions are easily avoided, as players wishing to bet sums larger than £50 only have to consult a member of staff for permission before doing so.
Since 2011, Labour have been calling for betting shops to be put in their own planning class in order to curb betting shop clustering. Lib Dem and Conservative MPs have continued to vote against an amendment to this effect, after this initial proposal was rejected. Despite consistent calls from Labour and members of their own party for action, the government have repeatedly denied that Local Authorities require more power to deal with betting shop clustering. Unfortunately, the government have only performed a partial U-Turn, announcing that consultation will begin on a "re-emphasis within the current planning classes" in the summer.
Lucy Powell said:
“What the Government have announced is completely inadequate. Players will still be free to lose very large sums in a matter of minutes by betting stakes just under the £50 threshold, and will still be able to bet huge sums on a single stake with the permission of betting shop staff.”
“Betting shop staff often work alone, and the Government is putting them in the firing line by proposing that they should now shoulder the responsibility for the stakes on these dangerous machines, all because they are not willing to deal with the problem.”