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Call to ban ‘high stakes’ terminals at bookies to be put to the vote

HIGH-STAKES roulette machines branded the “crack cocaine of gambling” should be banned, senior councillors will argue next week.

The Government is due to publish a review shortly into controversial Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), which allow people to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds in betting shops.

There are 252 of the high-stakes machines across the district and the Campaign for Fairer Gambling estimates that Bradfordians lost a massive £10.6m in them last year.

At a meeting of the Full Council next week, the ruling Labour group will put forward a motion calling on the Government to ban the machines or limit them to £2 a spin.

Councillor Richard Dunbar (Lab, Thornton and Allerton), a deputy Executive member who has put forward the motion, said: “Earlier this summer one of my friends came to me and explained he had lost £1,000 in one hour on these machines.

“I feel that the protections are not there and the impact on people’s lives can be absolutely devastating.

“I could not believe how quickly this could happen to anybody and of course it affects those closest to the unfortunate people that get sucked into this as well.

“I am raising this motion at Council because I believe the council should have more powers to tackle the number of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals locally and it is time the Government took this issue seriously.”

But Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley and a former bookmaker, accused Bradford Council of seeking “to put many betting shop staff out of work through utter ignorance of the evidence”.

Mr Davies, who is the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Betting and Gaming, said: “There is no evidence at all to suggest that a reduction in stakes to £2 would reduce levels of problem gambling.

“Given that you can play exactly the same games as these on the internet, to unlimited stakes and unlimited prizes, then clearly it is pointless to reduce stakes just in betting shops.”

Mr Davies said that “prohibition never works” and that instead they should treat the individual people who have a gambling addiction.

He said: “Will Bradford Council pass a motion calling for all alcohol to be banned because some people have an alcohol addiction? I very much doubt it.”

And a spokesman for the Association of British Bookmakers said there were more than 60 betting shops in the district, “providing good jobs for over 350 people and paying over £7.2 million in local and national taxes”.

He said: “If the Government capitulate to the demands for bans or severe restrictions then over half of all shops and jobs in Bradford will be destroyed, yet people will continue to gamble on other forms of gambling that contribute little or nothing to the Bradford economy in terms of jobs and business rates.”

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