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Gambling review

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Churches, including the Methodist Church, have welcomed the government's response to the review of fixed odds betting terminals. You can read the ecumenical statement here. The Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) have also welcomed the review, you can read their response here.

17 May 2018

Today, a group of Churches and faith-based organisations have issued a welcome to the government's response to the review of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). In a statement, the Salvation Army, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, the Church of Scotland, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Evangelical Alliance UK, Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs, CARE and the Mission and Public Affairs Council of the Church of England said:

"FOBTs are a serious problem in society and for local communities, families and individuals. Evidence links them to patterns of addictive behaviour, large financial losses and anti-social and criminal behaviour. Today, we warmly welcome the government's commitment to cap maximum stakes on FOBTs at £2.

"We are clear that solving problem gambling goes much broader than responding to the challenge of FOBTs. We therefore welcome the player protection measures, being taken forward by the Gambling Commission.

"In welcoming this proposed action, we want to make it clear that in addition to the major challenge presented by FOBTs, there are also wider issues associated with gambling that require serious political commitment to address. Therefore, we note that at this stage new powers to oversee gambling are not been given to local authorities. We ask the government to re visit this.

"We also note that the government state that 'Gambling-related harm is a health Issue', and welcome the announcement that Public Health England (PHE) is to conduct an evidence review of health aspects of gambling-related harm to inform action on prevention and treatment."

Response to the government's announcement on gambling machines

The government's announcement on gambling machines – a response from the Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church.

The government's decision significantly to reduce the stakes for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) from a maximum of £100 to £2 is welcome. This reduction will make it harder for people to lose huge amounts of money so quickly, and most affect problem gamblers who are known to gamble at higher stakes. It will also mean that high stake gambling is no longer available on the high street.

The reduction in FOBT stakes alone will not, however, end problem gambling. As we warned in our submission to the government's consultation, people who have problems with gambling will adapt their playing behaviour in response to changes, using different machines or strategies. Therefore we welcome the moves to introduce player controls on other gaming machines. We also welcome the range of player protection measures being currently explored by the Gambling Commission, including the proposal to improve protection measures for online gambling.

However we are disappointed that these do not yet address other areas of concern. We are particularly concerned that people can use their credit cards when gambling online. We urge the government and the Commission to take this anomaly seriously. We are also concerned that the benefits of account based play, where players and operators can monitor play and spending across different forms of gambling, have not been recognised.

We welcome the government's decision not to increase stakes and prizes on other gambling machines. But we remain concerned that children can still gamble on commercial gambling products, something where Britain is an anomaly. Gambling is an adult activity. The fact that nearly 57,000 children are problem gamblers or at risk of problem gambling should be a huge concern to us all. Measures are needed to tackle all forms of commercial gambling available to those under 18 years, from category D machines to the National Lottery.

The impact of problem gambling goes far beyond the individual, affecting their partners, children, friends, work colleagues and wider community. We welcome the significant steps taken by the government today in prioritising the protection of players. We urge them to continue to take seriously the harm that gambling is causing to individuals and society.

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