Call For High Street Betting Machine Ban

Gaming machines that allow players to bet on the outcome of various games and events with fixed odds returns should be banned from the high street, a report has concluded.

Holyrood's local government and regeneration committee has been looking into the use of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) available in bookmakers in Scotland.

The most commonly played game is roulette, but others include bingo, simulated horse and greyhound racing and a range of slot machine games.

The committee heard evidence that these machines are sometimes referred to as the "crack cocaine'' of gambling.

The inquiry considered the Scotland Bill proposal to devolve powers to limit the number of FOBTs allowed in new licensed betting premises but the committee concluded that given the high number of existing terminals in bookmakers, the Bill would not give the Scottish Parliament effective powers to tackle this issue.

Convener Kevin Stewart MSP said members were "shocked'' at some of the evidence received about the machines.

"We have heard how quickly and easily players can become addicted and lose hundreds, sometimes thousands, of pounds,'' he said.

"The casino industry told us these machines are a form of hard gambling and unsuitable for the unsupervised environment of a bookmaker's shop.

"We were given evidence about the clustering of bookmakers in some communities - for example, one parade of shops in Glasgow with three bookmakers each offering four FOBT machines - and local authorities have told us they feel powerless to do anything to restrict the number of bookmakers.

"Communities must be given the power to control this number. This is why we believe the planning rules have to be changed to give local authorities more control and the ability to address this clustering.

"The Scotland Bill proposals stem from a concern about the harmful effects of FOBTs but the Bill would not give the Scottish Parliament any real and effective powers to tackle these. The Bill simply does not go far enough.

"We believe that the maximum stake of #100 per game and ability to play three games per minute mean FOBTs are a form of hard gambling and must, therefore, be banned from the high street.''

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