Addiction charity calls on powers for Wales to lead the way on regulating Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs)

Wales has an excessive gambling problem. According to findings from the Welsh Problem Gambling Survey 2015, 4.5% 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 is currently reserved to Westminster, although responsibility for high stakes machines is being devolved to Scotland. Beat the Odds, a Wales-based gambling addiction treatment service, calls on the UK Parliament to give Wales the responsibility over FOBTs.

According to Labour Peer and AM, Baroness Morgan, who tabled an amendment to the Wales Bill to give Wales responsibility over FOTBs, “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.”

Dr Simon Dymond, Reader in Psychology, Swansea University, 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 that it is now more important than ever to conduct research into safeguarding the most vulnerable from developing a gambling problem and providing help where it is needed the most.

“To that extent, the government’s recently announced review of electronic gaming machines and the work of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) means that much needed legislative change may be coming to protect current and future generations from the pernicious effects of these easily accessible, high-stakes games.”

Wynford Ellis Owen, CEO of the Living Room Cardiff which runs the Beat the Odds initiative, added, ‘The prevalence rate of problem gambling in Wales is estimated to be 1.1% of the population. For a country the size of Wales, this is an alarmingly high number. The message I get from recovering gamblers is that FOTBs are particularly dangerous because they are so addictive. This message is repeated over and over again in comments by recovering addicts who tell me it is like an ‘ugly disease’, ‘like drugs’, a habit that brings no joy, something that hooks you in and sucks you in.

“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.”