Lives still at stake
ESCAPING STREETS OF SHAME We’ll fight on to pull the plug on FOBT hell
FIXED Odds Betting Terminals. Four words that I have probably said more than any others in the last three years.
Four words that sound quite innocent.
But four words that have caused devastation to those cursed with an addiction to playing these machines. And to their families.
When I first started campaigning for a reduction in the stakes on FOBTS, I was a newly elected Member of Parliament.
Taking the lead on this genuinely cross-party campaign, I was possibly out of my depth and probably naive.
But I was passionate and determined enough to speak up for people who were battling against the hold these electronic demons had over their lives.
Getting the stake reduced seemed almost impossible in those early days but as the months passed I began to realise I could make a difference.
I was no longer the new, inexperienced MP. I was someone who people were listening to, someone quite capable of taking on the bookmakers and winning.
I was therefore delighted on May 17 when the Government announced a stake reduction for fixed odds betting terminals from £100 to £2 per spin.
This welcome, and long overdue, change will see potential losses for individual gamblers plummet from £18,000 an hour to only £360.
This will be life-changing, possibly even life-saving, for many gambling addicts up and down the country. To have worked with colleagues from BEYOND the Streets is a national charity that works with women to find ways out of prostitution.
They invited me to an Alternative Jack the Ripper Tour in East London, which raises awareness about the harsh realities faced by victims of women selling sex. Prostitution across the House to achieve this historic milestone makes me very proud.
To have achieved something that will so reduce the causes of problem gambling and the related harm makes me even prouder.
Since the Government first announced its consultation on stakes back in October 2016, £3billion has been lost on fixed-odds betting terminals – often by those who can least afford it.
Last year alone, 230,000 people lost more than £1,000 on one of these toxic machines. For many the losses were much higher. This needs to stop – and it needs to stop quickly.
Every day that passes is another day that threatens vulnerable addicts.
The bookmakers’ argument that they need time to make technical adjustments to the machines is nonsense. This can happen quickly.
Government ministers are saying they can reduce the stake only once they increase the duty on online gambling and that this could take up to two years. While I agree that online
WHEN I lost my eight-year-old son Martin I was asked to donate his organs. At the time, I couldn’t bear the thought. But as time has passed, and my daughter-in-law waits for a kidney transplant, I’ve realised we need to be having more conversations with loved ones about donation. When we lose someone, we have the opportunity to give life to others. Wales introduced an opt-out system for organ donation in 2015. Hopefully England will follow suit soon. is a form of violence against women.
The women we are talking about are not women in lavish, glamorous brothels or women who use webcams to increase their bank balance.
These women are selling sex as a means for survival. They are facing homelessness and substance misuse. They are fronting unimaginable dangers, yet these women are still criminalised and stigmatised.
I am grateful to have been able to attend the tour and thankful that organisations such as Beyond the Streets exist. operators should be taxed more, this timescale is totally unacceptable.
The fixed-odds betting terminals announcement should be a guaranteed promise that the proposed changes will happen as soon as possible.
Myself and my colleagues, from across the political spectrum, have worked tirelessly to get this far. The Sunday People also campaigned vigorously for this vital reform.
And we will not stop until the Government implements the changes they have promised.