Councillors’ concerns over ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling

Peter Bradbury SUS-140913-102017001
Peter Bradbury SUS-140913-102017001

Concerns over the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling were raised by Mid Sussex councillors during a debate on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) last week.

Pete Bradbury (Con, Cuckfield) put forward a motion asking the leader of Mid Sussex District Council to write to the Local Government Association (LGA) calling for a reduction in the maximum bet per spin to £2 on the terminals as they were ‘causing significant problems’.

He explained that almost 100 authorities had already written to the LGA, and since gambling advertising was ‘increasingly pervasive’ he argued they had to do more to protect the vulnerable, especially young adults, since they were the target of most of the advertising.

During last Wednesday’s Full Council meeting, he said: “We have to recognise some gambling is more addictive and therefore more harmful than others.”

According to his figures there are 33 fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in Mid Sussex betting shops with £8m inserted into them last year alone.

But Gordon Marples (Con, Hassocks) expressed concern about the wording of the motion, said there had been no complaints in Mid Sussex, and he explained that the terminals gave constant advice.

He suggested if betting shops closed any gap in the market could be filled by ‘more unscrupulous operators’.

He had been also told by one bookmaker that staff were trained to recognise the signals of someone spending too much money at the FOBTs and to intervene.

Anthony Watts Williams (Con, Hurstpierpoint and Downs) said the terminals were being called the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’, and while gambling was an enjoyable pasttime for some, it was also a life destroying addiction for others.

He agreed with the sentiment of Mr Bradbury’s motion, but struggled to support a £2 limit, putting betting shops on par with pubs.

He explained: “This could be the beginning of the end of our high street betting shops as we know it and another nail in the coffin of the great British high street.”

Meanwhile Andrew Barrett-Miles (Con, Burgess Hill - Dunstall) supported the LGA’s continuing work, but ‘did not share the point of view about mothering people’, while Norman Webster (Con, East Grinstead - Baldwins), cabinet member for health and community, said that it was a problem in other parts of the country and they had a duty to protect vulnerable people.

Heidi Brunsdon (Con, East Grinstead - Imberhorne) then put forward an amendment deleteing reference to ‘£2 for a maximum spin’ and instead urging the LGA to continue its work in ‘areas of the council’s concern’.

Garry Wall (Con, Haywards Heath - Franklands), leader of the council, added: “I think it’s reasonable for members to have an item placed before us to have a debate and we have clearly found some common ground.”

He put forward a further amendment simply noting the research by the LGA into the topic and supporting the continuing work by the LGA in making representations to Government.

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