Church concern over high street gambling
Published 25 July 2012
Churches are concerned that more gaming machines on the high street will lead to a surge in problem gambling.
A parliamentary report into gambling recommends scrapping the cap on high-stake gambling machines in shops.
Betting shops are currently allowed a maximum of four high-risk B2 gaming machines on their premises.
The report suggests casinos should be allowed as many as 20 high-stake machines on their premises.
Church groups are concerned about the social harm that could be caused by an increase in the machines, which allow players to place bets of up to £100.
Daniel Webster, of the Evangelical Alliance, said: "The committee completely ignored the risks posed by B2 gaming machines.
"You can lose thousands of pounds an hour on these machines, but if the committee gets its way casinos will be granted more B2 machines, betting shops will be subject to no compulsory limit, and, for the first time, gaming arcades will be allowed to operate them.
"They didn't listen to the 29 per cent of callers to the gambling helpline citing these machines as problems, but backed an industry wanting to make a profit out of the pockets of the poorest."
The report was released on the back of a year-long inquiry into the implementation and effectiveness of the Gambling Act, which includes among its stated aims the protection of children and vulnerable people.
It suggests that gambling is an acceptable form of entertainment and suggests that the rules be relaxed.
If the recommendations are approved, local authorities would have the discretion to impose their own limits on the number of high-stake gaming machines in betting shops.
"This is a one-way street towards more addictive gambling machines in our communities," said Gareth Wallace, public policy adviser at The Salvation Army.
"Betting shops are making more and more profit from virtual games, away from real horses.
"We're perplexed that the committee would recommend a further liberalisation of gambling machines when they heard evidence that problem gambling is on the rise."
Chairman of the committee, John Whittingdale MP, said: "Gambling is now widely accepted in the UK as a legitimate entertainment activity.
"The 'reluctantly permissive' tone of gambling legislation over the last 50 years now looks outdated.
"It is also inadequate to cope with the realities of the global market in online gambling, and even seems ill-equipped to cope with the realities on our high streets."
The churches welcomed calls by the committee for further comparable research on problem gambling rates and the introduction of a national system of self-exclusion regulated by the Gambling Commission.
Dr Daniel Boucher, Director of Parliamentary Affairs for CARE said: "It is very welcome that the committee recommended a national system for self-exclusion which would be of great benefit for people dealing with an addiction.
"However it is odd and rather inconsistent that they do not mention this proposal in relation to remote gambling which is as important if not more so due to the easy access to numerous gambling websites."
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