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UK Labour party for FOBTs’ ban

UK opposition party Labour is set to force a vote in Parliament on its plans to give councils the power to ban fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from bookmakers in their constituencies.

According to the BBC, Labour is to use an opposition day debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday to press the government into taking action on the issue.

There are currently 33,000 FOBTs in place in the UK, making around £1.5 billion (€1.8 billion/$2.5 billion) each year for the larger bookmakers, an amount estimated to be half of their annual profits.

The machines, which allow punters to spend up to £300 a minute, have faced heavy criticism from UK campaign groups and politicians in recent months.

As reported by iGaming Business, Labour leader Ed Miliband said the machines are “becoming an epidemic” in some parts of the country and vowed to amend planning laws in England, Scotland and Wales to curb their growth if Labour regains power.

The previous Labour government relaxed the gambling laws to allow the FOBTs to be installed in the first place. However, the party has accused the gambling industry of exploiting these changes to target the poorer areas in the UK.

Miliband said that the current limit of four FOBTs per shop had led to “clusters” of shops opening together, with councils powerless to act on the matter.

He said that a Labour government would legislate to place betting shops in a separate use class, which would allow councils to use planning powers to control the amount of shops opening in their area. Betting shops are currently situated in the same category as banks.

Labour would review the number of FOBTs allowed on a single bookmaker’s premises, including allowing councils to ban them. Miliband said that the party would also take steps to make FOBTS less addictive by requiring pop-ups and breaks in play for the user.

As reported by iGaming Business, MPs recently voted against a proposal to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2 and to cut the top prize from the current £500.

However, the government has not ruled out taking action on FOBTs, with Prime Minister David Cameron promising he would take a “proper look” at the issue.

The Liberal Democrat opposition party also recently voted in favour of handing councils the power to limit the number of betting shops in their area.