The United Kingdom has long been a promised land of all sorts of gambling activity. Firms across the country are said to make as much as GBP7 billion from fixed odds betting terminals. Even though there has been a proposed legislation to restrict the cap of the betting, politics has got in the way.
Tories have been slow to act, delaying a GBP2,000 cap for way too long, and then delaying to launch it in earnest. Finally, they managed to muster the political willingness to curb the gambling on the machines known as the most addictive gaming machines out there.
All Is Well… But, Oh Wait!
The Tories have not been true to their word. Despite their initial-after-much-dithering readiness to address an issue so destructive to the nation’s problem gamers as a whole, they have made an unnerving U-turn, saying that the new laws won’t apply sooner than 2020.
Officially, lawmakers have claimed that gambling operators will need time to adjust and fine-tune their machines as per the new regulations. Pardon me for taking the skeptical view here, but 2 years is a lot of adjusting. Shops are expected to add another GBP4 billion thanks to the delay.
On the Trail of FOBTs
The delay has not gone unnoticed. British MP Carolyn Harris chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on FOBTs and she and her colleagues are going to look into the reasons for the delay, which have thrown spanner in the works.
Harris was also at the helm of the offensive against FOBTs and was pleased when her political efforts resulted in a resounding victory. However, nothing seems to have changed given the fact that the Tories are now delaying the legislation.
Meanwhile, bookmakers have claimed that if they proceed with adjusting their FOBTs at the original pace of the agreement, they would be forced to close down hundreds of shops, and lead to massive job losses.
This is true. The patch could have serious implications and affect people on the spot. But is laying off 10,000-odd employees worse than having 400,000 problem gamers in the UK, with their numbers clearly rising?
Meanwhile, there have been somewhat sterner proposals. For example, the Sunday People campaign against FOBTs has also proposed that gamers shouldn’t be able to wager anything above GBP2 at a time.
The reasoning behind this is that a person would soon get tired of punching in coins and quickly realize that the profitability of the whole thing may be somewhat dubious. The delay in the legislation has prompted Medway Labour Group leader Councilor Vince Maple to comment that the delay would lead to another 2 years where vulnerable people throw their lives away, unable to stop themselves.
There is little that can defend the current position of the Tories right now. Bookmakers must be pushed into tighter deadlines and the GBP2 betting ceiling ought to be introduced on the spot! Studies have shown that it’s the single most effective way to curb gambling. Is it possible for the socially-responsible Tories to have gone completely bonkers?