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Call to ban 'addictive' fixed odds betting terminals from bookmakers

Betting shop machines described as the 'crack cocaine' of gambling

Gambling: MSPs were 'shocked' by evidence on betting
Gambling: MSPs were 'shocked' by evidence on betting Ben Birchall/PA Archive/PA Images

Controversial gambling machines should be banned from bookmakers according to a Scottish Government inquiry.

A report published on Monday claims the Scotland Bill proposal to devolve powers to limit the number of machines in new betting shops 'does not go far enough.'

While betting and gaming is currently reserved to Westminster, the new Scotland Bill proposes giving Holyrood ministers the power to vary the number of such machines betting shops are allowed to have.

The Scottish Parliament's Local Government and Regeneration Committee inquiry heard evidence suggesting there were around 839 fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in licensed betting premises in Glasgow.

It also heard there were 421 in Edinburgh, 320 in North Lanarkshire and 316 in South Lanarkshire.

During its inquiry, the committee heard evidence that these machines are sometimes referred to as the 'crack cocaine' of gambling.

The most commonly played game on FOBTs is roulette, with other games including bingo, simulated horse and greyhound racing and a range of slot machine games.

The committee also wants planning rules be changed to give local authorities more control over the number of bookmakers in local areas.

It concluded that the Scotland Bill would not give the Scottish Parliament effective powers to tackle the issue.

Committee convener, Kevin Stewart MSP said: "Our Committee has been shocked by some of the evidence it has received about FOBT machines.

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

"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.

"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."

Mr Stewart said the maximum stake of £100 per game and the ability to play three games per minute meant FOBTs should be considered as a form of hard gambling."

He added: "They must, therefore, be banned from the high street."

Failing the devolution of effective powers, the committee recommended that local authorities' powers to inspect and review betting premises licences be strengthened.

Fixed odds betting terminals were introduced to licensed betting premises in 2001.

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