Bookmakers go on the offensive ahead of FOBT report

Britain’s bookmakers are demanding an urgent inquiry into a new report by the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) All- Party Parliamentary Group which is expected to call for a £2 per spin maximum stake to be imposed on all FOBTs when it is published this morning.

The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) has criticised the report as ‘deeply flawed’ and said it had been funded by commercial rivals of Britain’s bookmakers and warned such a move would be a ‘hammer blow’ to High Street bookmakers and threaten thousands of jobs.

The ABB has now demanded an immediate inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards into the FOBTs All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) which it has condemned as a “front for vested commercial interests” stating there is no evidence that a reduction in stake size would decrease the risk of problem gambling.

Speaking ahead of the publication of the APPG report, ABB CEO Malcom George said: “This is a deeply flawed report funded by vested interests who would directly benefit if its recommendations are ever implemented. The report is the view of a tiny group of anti-betting shop MPs.  This group has been financed by those with interests in the casino, arcade and pub industries.

“We strongly believe that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards should urgently investigate this All-Party Parliamentary Group. This group of MPs has operated in secrecy, provided no transcripts of the evidence given to their meetings and operated throughout behind closed doors away from public scrutiny.

“Britain’s bookmakers employ more than 43,000 staff and contribute over £1 billion a year in taxes. But, betting shops are already closing at the rate of more than 100 a year and if the findings of this rigged report are implemented, it could spell the beginning of the end for the High Street bookmaker.”

The Group is funded by coin-op trade association BACTA, casino & coin-op machine manufacturer Novomatic, pubs operator JD Wetherspoon, arcade operator Praesepe, The Hippodrome Casino, LM Consulting and the Campaign for Fairer Gambling. The ABB argues that all these bodies are in competing gaming sectors or have links to the coin-op and casino sectors and as such ask questions about the objectivity of the report.

Questioning the integrity of MPs is a bold lobbying move from the ABB, but the association has already described the APPG as a ‘kangaroo court’ and is clearly incensed at the anti-FOBT agenda that it perceives the group has followed from the outset. Whether the other politicians will agree with this charge remains to be seen.

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