Church Calls For Government Action On 'Crack Cocaine' Of Gambling

The Church of England is calling for a clampdown on the 'crack cocaine' of gambling – fixed odd betting terminals (FOBTs).

The spin machines found in high street betting shops allow a maximum stake of £100 every 20 seconds, meaning £18,000 could be lost in a single hour.

Hugh VenablesThere is a restriction of four fixed odds betting terminals per shop, but no restriction on the number of shops per street.

But the Church's General Synod unanimously passed a motion calling for the highest stake to be cut to £2 per spin.

A plea tabled by the Diocese of London throws the weight of the CofE behind a campaign calling on the government to act. It described the 'destructive impact' of the high-stakes machines and called for local authorities to be given the power to regulate the machines.

The highly lucrative machines are thought to earn the Treasury £438 million in tax revenues and provide more than half of Ladbrokes' profits. Bookmakers as a whole earn around £175 billion each year.

The high profits are seen as one reason why the government has called a review but declined to regulate the machines.

Clive Scowan, bringing forward the motion, described them as an 'anomaly' as they are the only type of machine allowed outside casinos where you can bet more than £2 per stake.

He described them as a 'highly pernicious form of high street gambling' and said they 'feed off poverty and exacerbate it, often plunging people into unmanageable debt, bringing misery not just to the gamblers but to their families and especially their children'.

He said: 'God calls us as his ambassadors to stand for his justice and to defend the poor and needy, which includes speaking prophetically to those in power.'