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13 December 2016, 09:13
The Welsh Assembly will be given new powers to tackle the problems from fixed odds betting terminals after Labour convinced the UK Government to back down on the issue and devolve the powers.
As the Wales Bill enters its final stages through Parliament, Labour has convinced the government to devolve responsibility to the Welsh Assembly for gambling machines with stakes over £10. With evidence showing fixed odds betting terminals are one of the most addictive and problematic forms of gambling, the new powers will help Welsh Government Ministers to tackle the problem at a local level and matches the powers that the Scottish Government already have.
Fixed-odds betting terminals allow players to stake up to £100 every 20 seconds on touch-screen machines-a significantly higher stake than the £2 maximum bet on a fruit machine. With the UK Government at first unwilling to include the power to regulate them in the Wales Bill, Labour in Westminster tabled an amendment to devolve the power to the Assembly. This caused the Minister responsible Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, to promise to look at the clause and led the UK Government to now table a version of the amendment ahead of this week's report stage of the Bill to allow the power to be devolved.
Evidence suggests that these machines are particularly highly addictive and cause real and lasting damage to some gamblers, and exacerbate problem gambling more than any other form of betting. They have become a significant problem with many, often vulnerable people living in deprived communities attracted by the prospect of high pay-outs of up to £500.
There are more than 1,500 fixed-odds betting terminals in Wales with more than £1.6 billion staked annually.
The Labour party has been a strong supporter of the campaign to improve regulation of fixed odds betting terminal machines, with Welsh MP Carolyn Harris chairing the All Party Parliamentary Group on the issue. Last week the APPG published a report calling on Government Ministers to cut the betting stakes on these machines to £2, a call backed by gambling expert Professor Peter Collins.
Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Jo Stevens MP said:
"This is an important victory to help stop out of control gambling that can ruin lives. Responsible gambling can be harmless fun, but these machines which have been dubbed 'the crack cocaine of gambling' are causing real and lasting damage.
Labour has long backed the campaign to better regulate fixed odds betting terminals, and having now forced the government to back down and devolve this power, Labour Ministers in Wales will act to prevent the harm they cause even if Conservative Ministers in Westminster won't."