An addiction charity has called on powers for Wales to lead the way on regulating Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), to curb an ‘excessive’ gambling problem in the country.
According to findings from the Welsh problem gambling survey 2015, 4.5 per cent of males aged between 25 and 34 years old meet the diagnostic criteria for problem gambling, with a similar proportion deemed at risk of developing a gambling problem.
Gambling control is currently reserved to Westminster, although responsibility for high stakes machines is being devolved to Scotland. To counter the problem in Wales, Beat the Odds, a Wales-based gambling addiction treatment service, has called on the UK parliament to give Wales the responsibility over FOBTs.
Labour Peer Baroness Morgan, who tabled an amendment to the Wales Bill to give Wales responsibility over FOTBs, said: ‘Many vulnerable people are attracted by the prospect of high pay-outs of up to £500. Evidence suggests that these machines are highly addictive, causing real and lasting damage for gamblers.
‘Fixed Odds Betting Terminals have become a huge problem in communities that are often struggling to cope with under-investment and high unemployment, exacerbating the problem of gambling more than any other form of betting’.
Safeguarding the vulnerable
Her comments were backed up by Dr Simon Dymond, reader in psychology for Swansea University. Mr Dymond said: ‘The increased opportunities to gamble, be it via smartphone apps or in the high street bookies, and the growing acceptance of gambling-related advertisements as part of sporting events, means it is important to conduct research into safeguarding the most vulnerable from developing a gambling problem and providing help where it is needed the most’.
Last year, the government announced a review of electronic gaming machines, led by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.
Wynford Ellis Owen, chief executive of the Living Room Cardiff, which runs the Beat the Odds initiative, said: ‘The prevalence rate of problem gambling in Wales is estimated to be 1.1 per cent of the population. For a country the size of Wales, this is an alarmingly high number. The message I get from recovering gamblers is FOTBs are particularly dangerous, because they are so addictive.
‘It is imperative therefore that Wales receives the same treatment as Scotland to enable the country to tackle the scourge of the FOTBs epidemic and its impact on our communities’.