Hackney Council bids to tackle gambling machines

Slot machines described as the “crack cocaine of gambling” will be tackled in a new campaign backed the town hall.

At a recent Hackney Council meeting, members agreed a motion to support the Campaign For Fairer Gambling’s call for the maximum amount people can spend on betting machines.

Currently up to £100 can be put into the machines in each game, but the organisation, through its Stop the FOBTs (fixed-odds betting terminals) campaign, is urging the government to cut this to £2 a time.

Earlier this year, the campaign group named the borough as one of the 20 worst places in the country for gambling and estimated that a total of £13million has been sucked from the local economy by the 250 machines across 60 betting shops.

Cllr Geoff Taylor said: “We are one of the most deprived boroughs in the country.

‘‘We have far too many betting shops.”

Campaign For Fairer Gambling spokesman Adrian Parkinson said: “Hackney is focusing on what’s the root cause of the problem, which is reducing the amount of money that can be put in machines.

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“Betting shops are opening more and more FOBTs, which is increasing the problem. These machines are the crack cocaine of gambling.

“The route to dealing with the problem is that a number of councils back the motion and put pressure on the government. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has the power to reduce this stake to £2.”

The council’s Liberal Democrat group, which submitted an amendment to the motion asking that no council property which is sold can be used as a betting shop, said not enough is being done to tackle the issue.

Cllr Abraham Jacobson said: “We need to put teeth in the motion and carry out some action. Otherwise it’s just empty rhetoric.

“That’s why we put in the amendment as we think Hackney Council should lead by example.

“These betting shops prey on the weak and vulnerable in areas of poverty and low unemployment.

He added: “It would be good if the council put in planning restrictions to prevent new betting shops opening in the borough. I also think they should ensure there is no advertising in the windows of betting shops, to reduce temptation”