THE Church of England has joined other Churches and faith-based organisations in welcoming the Government’s plans for a consultation on tightening the rules that govern gaming machines and related social-responsibility measures.
It specifically urged Ministers to cut the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), which can be as high as £100, to just £2 (News, 11 August). The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, said that the Church would press the Government to consider the experiences of those most affected by these machines.
“Any stake higher than £2 does not go far enough to address the harm these machines cause to families and communities. FOBTs are the only betting machines on the high street which take a stake of more than £2. The £100 stake has been a disastrous anomaly.”
In February, the General Synod called on the Government to reduce the maximum stake on the terminals to £2 after members heard of the “huge suffering” caused by the machines (News, 17 February).
In a joint statement, the Salvation Army, the Church of England, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, CARE, the Evangelical Alliance, and Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs said: “Fixed-odds betting terminals present serious problems 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.
“We stand by the belief that the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals must be radically reduced from the current maximum stake of £100. We believe that this will help to reduce the potentially enormous financial loss that some people experience, and, therefore, the consequences, including debt, depression, and crime.
“We urge the Government to view gambling addiction as a public health issue.
“Evidence shows that problem gambling causes harm to a disproportionate extent in disadvantaged areas and amongst ethnic minorities. There is also evidence of a strong association between problem gambling and online play.”
The statement also voiced concern about the marked growth in gambling advertising, and urged the Government to adopt a 9 p.m. watershed, which would include the promotion of gambling through sports events.