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Monday, August 06, 2012

The £46 billion cost of Britain's roulette machine addiction


The New Labour Party's liberalisation of the gambling laws in the first years of the new century resulted, amongst other things, in the introduction of fixed odds betting terminals, or FOBTS, to high street bookmakers. And with consequences:


The £46bn cost of Britain's roulette machine addiction

The extent of Britain's addiction to controversial casino-style gambling machines is revealed today with the disclosure by two bookmaker giants that more than £12  billion was wagered on their machines in the first half of this year.

William Hill said £6.6  billion was staked on electronic Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in their 2,371 betting shops from January to June. Meanwhile, Ladbrokes said £5.9 billion was wagered on FOBTs in their 2,137 outlets across the country in the same period. Even allowing for the fact that machines in other bookmaking chains might not have as many people playing them, the rapid and continuing rise in popularity of FOBTs means that the total for the year across the industry could be as much as £46  billion.



Former New Labour Cabinet minister Harriet Harman, it seems, has now had a Road To Damascus moment on the matter:


Labour's deputy leader, who was a senior member of the Cabinets of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said: "I think we were wrong. We have made a mistake and we need to do something about it. If we had known then what we know now, we wouldn't have allowed this. It's not just ruining the high street, it's ruining people’s lives."

This is the first time Ms Harman, who is in charge of Labour's gambling policy, has explicitly blamed the Labour Government for the increase in gambling.



It's good to see that this current leading light of the Labour Party, and one who was active in government at the time the gambling floodgates were opened, has seen the light and apologised on behalf of her party. It's a pity she and her colleagues couldn't have been a little better informed of the somewhat glaringly obvious potential consequences before green-lighting the changes in the first place, before the damage was done.



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