FIXED-ODDS betting machines need greater regulation, a Bolton councillor has warned.
At a meeting at Bolton Town Hall, Conservative councillor Martyn Cox asked whether the authority could do anything to halt the spread of the machines, which he branded “dreadful”.
Cllr Cox’s comments followed a report in The Bolton News that pressure group The Campaign for Fairer Gambling had claimed gamblers in the borough spent almost £190 million on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in 2012.
An FOBT is a touchscreen machine with a variety of different games, but the most popular is roulette, and it is possible to bet up to £100 each time.
In his motion, Cllr Cox, who represents Westhoughton North and Chew Moor, said that even though they were legal, a civilised society “should not be playing on people’s psychological weaknesses”.
He said: “The executive member may have seen a report reproduced in the Bolton News about fixed odds betting machines.
“The report produced by Campaign for Fair Gambling claims that more than £190 million a year is spent on fewer than 200 machines in the town with a payout rate of 97 per cent — that means over £5 million is lost.
“These machines, first introduced into bookmakers in 2001, are clearly highly addictive and are having a damaging effect on people’s finances.
“Is there anything the council can do to restrict the proliferation of the these machines?”
Cllr Nick Peel, Bolton Council's executive cabinet member for the environment, regulatory services and skills, replied: “The council, as licensing authority, is responsible for the licensing of bookmakers, and we work in partnership with the Gambling Commission, which regulates gambling activity.
“The Bolton News article is based on a report from a pressure group and their report is based on information and several assumptions from a freedom of information request.
“The Gambling Commission is preparing a national response to the pressure group report which will confirm fixed odds machines in bookmakers do not breach gambling legislation.
“I can also confirm that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is also looking at fixed odds betting terminals as part of a review.”