Leaked document causes new disputes over government’s review into industry

A leaked document obtained by the Guardian prior to a parliamentary debate surrounding proposed reforms to the gambling industry has raised the concern that gambling industry lobby groups have an overwhelming influence over MPs.

David Lammy MP in Parliament

David Lammy MP has long been campaigning against FOBTs. © Evening Standard.

Last week, MPs debated the government’s recently released review into the industry and specifically the dangers of fixed-odds betting terminals.

The document leaked prior to the debate showed that many questions drafted were actually made by industry lobbyists, highlighting the measures operators were taking to tackle problem gambling for example. Many of these drafts made it into the final debate.

The findings have resulted in fears that a conflict of interest could exist for many MPs, who may have benefited from lavish treatment and hospitality from operators, leading to the limited restrictions government seems willing to impose on bookmakers and FOBTs.

What restrictions – if any – will be imposed on FOBTs?

The report issued by the government last week reviewing the industry and proposing new measures to curb FOBT use has been poorly received by most. Its critics have argued a soft touch toward operators and that unless firmer action is taken, the negative effects of widespread FOBT use will continue.

For some, such as Labour MP David Lammy, the battle has been a long one:

I have been campaigning against fixed-odds betting terminals for many years now, and everyone who has been involved in this campaign is well aware that the gambling lobby is a very powerful and well-resourced organisation with friends in parliament who are keen to protect their interests and profits. The damage caused by these machines has been tolerated for far too long, aided and abetted by this lobbying.David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham.

The proposed measures to help alleviate the damage of FOBTs are a reduction in the maximum stake from the current £100. A low of £2 has been discussed, but it is expected that government will propose a stake between £10-£50 in twelve weeks time once the consultation period is over.

Critics have argued that a cut in the stake ignores how quickly users can place successive bets and other issues relating to cost of play, meaning it will be insufficient in tackling what many are calling a gambling epidemic.

But the leaked document has added further fuel to the fire by suggesting parliamentary debate on the industry and FOBTs is being distorted by lobby groups for the industry. The review is currently in a consultation period, after which concrete proposals will be released.

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