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Tory minister who backed FOBTs takes over overview of playing legal guidelines | Playing

A Conservative minister who was in favour of permitting fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) at motorway service stations and amusement arcades has been put in control of a landmark review of gambling laws, the Guardian has realized.

Campaigners for playing reform voiced concern after it emerged that John Whittingdale, the minister for media and information, is taking up accountability for the overview from the sports activities minister, Nigel Huddleston, almost three months after it was launched.

They pointed to Whittingdale’s file of voting against stronger regulation of the trade and feedback enjoying down the hazards of FOBTs.

Whittingdale was chair of the tradition choose committee when it produced a report suggesting that FOBTs ought to be permitted at venues equivalent to bingo halls and amusement arcades. The 2012 report may even have led to the highly addictive £100-per-spin machines being put in at motorway service stations throughout the nation. The proposals weren’t adopted by David Cameron’s authorities.

Whittingdale later took intention on the widespread description of FOBTs because the “crack cocaine” of playing, telling an trade convention: “I’m not so certain they’ve even the hashish of playing.” NHS surveys have constantly proven that FOBTs are related to increased charges of dependancy than different playing merchandise.

In 2014, throughout a debate within the Home of Commons, Whittingdale stated it was “just about unattainable” to lose massive sums on the machines. Nonetheless, a later examine by the Playing Fee discovered that FOBT gamers misplaced greater than £1,000 on more than 233,000 occasions over a 10-month interval.

The Conservative authorities finally cut the maximum stake from £100 to £2, branding the machines a “social blight”.

Labour’s Carolyn Harris, who chairs a cross-party group of MPs investigating gambling-related hurt, stated she was involved on the change in ministerial oversight of the overview.

“Given the brand new appointee has a historical past of being strongly supportive of the trade, I very a lot hope he will likely be targeted on the proof and never influenced by aggressive trade lobbying,” she stated.

The change is considered because of the depth of Huddleston’s workload overseeing efforts to alleviate the influence of Covid-19 on sport, tourism and heritage.

A spokesperson for the Division for Digital, Tradition, Media and Sport stated: “The minister [Whittingdale] absolutely helps the excellent, evidence-led overview of the playing act to make sure that laws is match for the digital age.”

Liz Ritchie, of the charity Gambling with Lives, which was arrange by households bereaved by gambling-related suicide, stated: “The failures of successive ministers to proper the wrongs of the 2005 Gambling Act and rein within the greed of the playing trade has led to 1000’s of individuals dying by means of playing associated suicide and thousands and thousands of lives torn aside. The brand new minister has an opportunity to place this proper. Bereaved households will maintain him to the duty of preserving the lives of the subsequent era.”

Voting data present Whittingdale has constantly opposed measures to impose tighter controls on the sector. In 2013 he voted to not require playing corporations to ban individuals who have registered for self-exclusion. In 2011 he voted towards measures that will have prevented playing corporations from getting computerized planning permission to open outlets in plots vacated by banks.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, of the Marketing campaign for Fairer Playing, stated: “Public help for playing reform is overwhelming. So if the federal government’s going to get its playing overview proper, hopefully John’s views have modified since 2012.”

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