New All Party Group to Review High Street FOBTs

MP Carolyn Harris to assess FOBTs.

Labour MP Carolyn Harris to chair a new committee designed to investigate FOBTs in the UK. (Image: walesonline.co.uk)

Fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) came under the spotlight once again this week following the formation of an All Party Political Group.

Tasked with investigating the impact of FOBTs on players and the wider community, the cross-party committee’s first order of business will be to analyse the effects of the much-maligned betting machines.

Chaired by Labour MP for Swansea East Carolyn Harris, the group is made up of five politicians from around the country who will each hear evidence from parties on both sides of the FOBT debate.

A Forum for All

While the main aim of the study is to assess any negative implications of FOBTs on the high street, the forum will be open to gambling regulators and the chief executive of the bookmakers association.

“This group, powered by the passion of the members in both Houses of Parliament on this issue, will allow a coordinated effort among politicians of all political parties, to come together to discuss how best to address the issues that FOBTs are causing to our communities,” read a statement from the group.

To form an overall impression of the gaming machines, the group will hold a series of invite-only hearings during which experts will offer oral evidence on FOBTs as they see them.

Following the conclusion of these hearings, the five politicians will review the evidence for and against FOBTs and publish a report tentatively titled: Fixed Odds Betting Terminals – Assessing the Impact.

While the group is yet to set a firm date for the publication of its report, it’s expected to be made available in early 2017.

Anti-FOBT Campaigner Joins Jeremy Corbyn

In the interim, the issue of FOBTs may become a focus for the Labour Party in the coming months after Matt Zarb-Cousin joined Jeremy Corbyn’s office.

Zarb-Cousin was formerly a member of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling (CFG) and actively lobbied the government to reduce the maximum stake on high street FOBTs to £2.

Although the group has so far been unsuccessful in its attempts to lower the betting threshold by such a significant amount, it’s pledged to continue its mission.

However, this mission will have to proceed without Zarb-Cousin as he’s taken up the role of Corbyn’s media officer.

Naturally, given his new position alongside the leader of the Labour Party, Zarb-Cousin will have to curtail his anti-FOBT efforts; however, there’s a chance he could use his position to leverage support for CFG in the coming months.

While that’s not to say Zarb-Cousin will be directly lobbying Corbyn to push for change or that it would have any impact if he did, the fact another anti-FOBT supporter has moved into a position of power is certainly won’t be a positive for the UK’s gambling industry.

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