Will on­line curbs fol­low £2 ‘crack co­caine’ vic­tory?

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Pol­icy Ed­i­tor

SLASH­ING the stakes al­lowed on bet­ting shop ma­chines may re­sult in prob­lem gam­blers go­ing on­line in­stead, the Gov­ern­ment ad­mits.

An of­fi­cial ‘im­pact as­sess­ment’ of this week’s cut in the max­i­mum bet on fixed-odds bet­ting ter­mi­nals from £100 to just £2 says that many high-stakes play­ers may now mi­grate to bet­ting web­sites.

As a re­sult, Cul­ture Min­is­ter Tracey Crouch is con­sid­er­ing moves to crack down on the in­ter­net gam­bling in­dus­try, in­clud­ing stronger age and af­ford­abil­ity checks.

She also wants to stop op­er­a­tors ap­peal­ing to chil­dren by us­ing car­toon char­ac­ters. Us­ing credit cards to bet on­line could also be out­lawed, she sug­gested yes­ter­day.

Her boss, Cul­ture Sec­re­tary Matt Han­cock de­scribed bet­ting shop ma­chines as a ‘so­cial blight’ as he an­nounced the stakes cut this week. The move was warmly wel­comed by cam­paign­ers who call fixed-odds ter­mi­nals the ‘crack co­caine of gam­bling’, but con­demned by book­ies.

The im­pact as­sess­ment says the change in the law could cost the in­dus­try £540mil­lion a year and the As­so­ci­a­tion of Bri­tish Book­mak­ers says this will re­sult in 4,000 shops clos­ing with 21,000 jobs lost.

Shares in gam­bling firms fell dras­ti­cally af­ter the an­nounce­ment but the losses were later clawed back.

The gov­ern­ment has also told the Gam­bling Com­mis­sion to be­gin talks with the in­dus­try on lim­it­ing the money and time spent on other bet­ting ma­chines in casi­nos and ar­cades. Firms could be told to track peo­ple’s play­ing pat­terns in a bid to spot those pun­ters most at risk of de­vel­op­ing a prob­lem.

Asked by MPs yes­ter­day about bet­ting web­sites which use car­toon char­ac­ters, Miss Crouch said: ‘There’s a great deal of fur­ther work that needs to be done in terms of pro­tect­ing vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly chil­dren from the harms of on­line gam­bling.’

She added that the Com­mis­sion would also con­sider ‘whether gam­bling us­ing credit cards on­line should con­tinue to be per­mit­ted’.

Com­ment – Page 20

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