SNP MSP Stuart McMillan has today called for clarity from the UK Government over their position in relation to Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).
Mr McMillan, who has been campaigning on the issue, spoke after it was revealed the new Conservative Culture Media & Sport Secretary, John Whittingdale MP, had previously called for the machines to be rolled out in bingo halls and motorway service stations.
During his time as Chairman of the DCMS select committee, he pushed for the rules over FOBTs to be relaxed and supported allowing up to 20 machines per betting shop. He also told gambling bosses: “People talk of (FOBTs) being the crack cocaine of gambling. “I’m not so sure they’re even the cannabis of gambling.”
The comments are in stark contrast to his new Junior Minister who has responsibility over gambling, Tracey Crouch MP, who in 2013 said she believed “that we should look carefully at limiting them or limiting the stakes that people can place on them.”
Speaking Stuart McMillan MSP said:
“I have today written to the UK Government asking them to clarify their position immediately.
“Fixed odds betting terminals, and more importantly, the amount that can be gambled in one spin, are ruining lives and families.
“I would encourage Mr Whittingdale to come to Inverclyde and speak to the ordinary people who have lost everything they own playing these machines. I would like to hear him explain to them why he thinks that the rules should be relaxed.
“The idea of having 20 machines per shop is simply ludicrous and anyone advocating it obviously has never lived in the real world.
“With the contrasting comments of the new Culture Secretary and his junior minister, the Tory Government are clearly all over the place on this issue. This makes it more important than ever that the powers to tackle the scourge of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals be given to the Scottish Parliament – just as the Smith Commission recommended.”
Adrian Parkinson, spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, added:
“We have a new Conservative majority government and what appears to be a new pro-FOBT Secretary of State in John Whittingdale.
“As chair of a select committee in 2012, despite the public backlash against FOBTs, he actually supported betting shops being allowed more of them.
“Then last year he spoke in favour of FOBTs being allowed in other high street gambling premises such as arcades and bingo halls.
“We have to ask the question now – has government policy now changed on FOBTs and under the Tories are we facing a major proliferation of this addictive gambling product?
“John Whittingdale needs to come clean about his intentions toward FOBTs and betting shops.”