Coffee House

Who would benefit from a ban on FOBTs?

22 February 2014

I wrote a piece about the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals uproar in the magazine this week, and it has prompted some angry responses by email and over social media. I’m told that I didn’t treat problem gambling with sufficient seriousness. I’m not sorry about that, I’m afraid: I think it’s silly to be too serious about the vices of others.

My point was that the political and the media classes are having something of a moral panic about FOBTs  — and as always with moral panics, the political and media classes don’t really know what they are talking about. I doubt Ed Miliband or Tom Watson, who both seem dead against FOBTs, have ever spent more than 10 minutes in a bookie.

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It is the righteous crusaders, not the exploitative vice industry, who often do the most harm.  By clamping down on FOBTs, for instance, the government will probably not reduce reckless gambling. (See Alex Massie’s excellent post on the subject here.) It will just push more and more problem gamblers on to the Internet, but the puritans of the Labour Party would be happier. The state could still extract plenty of tax from gaming companies (remember Super Casinos, everyone?), and nobody has to feel appalled at the sight of lots of poor people shuffling in and out of high-street bookmakers.

Oh, and it so happens that the bookmaker who will profit most from a FOBT ban, or any restriction on retail betting terminals, is likely to be Bet365, an online operator whose owners are generous donors to the Labour Party.

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Show comments
  • Nick Smith

    Freddy, you argued that fobts saved the bookmaker from the internet. I don’t see that as a positive. I have been into many bookmakers with these machines in and the punters on them appear agitated and the atmosphere in the shops feels threatening. Gone are the days when you could sit down and enjoy the newspaper with a cup of tea. The problem is, these machines are the equivalent of heroin to people who have only before tried nicotine. The very fact a person is able to gamble 300 pounds every 30 seconds is wrong. I am not a Labour supporter, but on this issue they have my support. There is a good reason heroin and cocaine are not legal – they are damaging and addictive and expensive. The same goes for fobts.

  • Seldom Seen

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it is NOT compulsory for anyone to go into a betting shop, whether to wager on horses, football, greyhounds or, to use those stupid FOBTs. They go into a betting shop of their own free will. After that, it’s a matter of personal discipline.

  • jmjm208

    If people are “addicted” to gambling then simply removing FOBTS isn’t going to stop them feeding their addiction. Similarly, if you close pubs that will not stop alcoholics drinking.

    The only answer to addiction is the Gospel of Jesus. The Christian Gospel changes lives and give people new life, new hope and sure salvation for their souls.

    If people would only repent of their sins and accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour then He would give them strength to overcome their addictions.

  • hoodlight

    har har – whatever your view is on FOBTs and I’m ambiguous to be honest, saying the Labour party has some kind of master plan to ban them so that Bet365 donate more money to them is the daftest thing I’ve read in ages. You clearly have no idea what you are on about.

  • Richas

    This is not about Bet365, however convenient that is to linking to Labour – this is about a monopoly for casinos, it is casinos and suppliers to casinos who are going to benefit most not one online bookie amongst many.

  • Fergus Pickering

    One of the many things that don’t matter at all which politicians like to pontificate about. Oh, and I don’t believe betting is a disease. I think it may be a vice.

    • Noa

      I share your view.
      Like using drugs, to describe habitua,l uanffordable gambling as an addiction is to accept that a human weakness is a condition requiring our sympathy, medical and psycological treatment.
      It is not, whilst the social pressures are often pervasive it is primarily the responsibility of the individual to control his vice.
      And it is the politicians who are always hypocritical about the treatment of vice. Whilst liberalising gambling and drugs they have made smoking all but illegal. What is next? Alcohol, fatty foods, sugar?
      Ironically the march of their moral condemnation is funded by taxes of the old vices they liberalise.

  • Ian Walker

    Living on a street which has 5 betting shops within a two mile stretch, and seeing the poor wretches shovelling money they can’t afford into these machines, I can tell you that they are a massive problem.

    And I am most definitely not a moral crusader. These machines are specfically engineered to create an addiction, and just because there aren’t needle tracks on the users’ arms doesn’t mean we shouldn’t come down hard on the pushers who exploit them.

    Crawl out of your cosy London pad and get out into the town centres of the rest of Britain; it might open your eyes a little bit.

    • Fergus Pickering

      No. They HAVE a problem. They are no problem to me at all.

      • Daniel Maris

        Do you accept you have to draw a line somewhere? Or would you be happy for dealers to hand out free heroin samples on street corners – “Try it – you might like it!!”.

        • Darnell Jackson

          Could you tell us where the line is please Daniel.
          In your opinion.

          • Kitty MLB

            Yes please do Daniel

        • Fergus Pickering

          Why are you talking about drugs? We are talking about betting. What is the chemical make-up of betting? Or adultery? These are vices.

      • Noa

        Well you already subsidise them, in that a proportion of your taxes is re-distributed via the welfare and benefits system to the betting and gaming industry.
        If you believe its no bad idea to subsidise the private sector then you may deplore the the waste inherant in doing so through the expensive medium of government and want to the right to just give your cash, or even more of it, directly to the bookies, who now, like charities such as Oxfam, simply seem to be Labour quangos.

    • Hexhamgeezer

      I wonder if this War on FOBTs will be prosecuted in the same laissez faire manner as the War on Drugs.

    • La Fold

      Wont someone think of the poor people!
      I live on a street with 4 bookies within less then a mile. It also has 5 tattoo shops in the same stretch. Should we now tell people how many tattoos they should get? Or do we agree that this is all personal choice and each choice has a set of repercussions, these can be good or bad depending on the choice made. If you spend all your money in the bookies then you will be skint, simple.
      Why arent we fixating on the casinos who generally dont have these machines but have fair higher limits and extend credit to punters? Because someone needs to tell these poor unwashed souls in classic reeboks and tracky bottoms tucked in socks that what they are doing is simply not acceptable! Or is the truth of the matter that many people play these machines because they like gambling and most people win a bit of dosh on occassion?

      • Nick Smith

        La fold – the point is social responsibility, and by that I mean the government’s duty to protect its citizens from harm, even if that means harming themselves. There will always be irresponsible people, but does that mean we for instance, legalize all hard drugs and if people become addicted that is their problem?!

        I have seen many people, with no significant history of gambling problems become very addicted, very quickly to these machines. If there was a realistic stake limit, the damage would be limited. But theoretically you can stake over 15,000 a day! It is wrong and socially irresponsible of the govt. to allow them to continue.

  • saffrin

    Bet365, would that be the outfit that paid Lard as Prescott to legalise casino gambling?
    Tch, tch, they should have bought Lady Mandelson, the girly boy that forced the file share prohibition through.
    Nice £8 million London mansion house by the way Mandy.

    • Kitty MLB

      And yet in their mansions Lefties hypocritically call themselves ‘the peoples
      party- still.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Giving up on this site. The situation with telemachus dominating every thread and comment is a joke and now there is not even down-voting for the swine.

    Here we have a supposedly right of centre magazine harassed and spammed relentlessly by a deranged megalomaniac Labour party supporter.

    Get on with it then. Tired of telemachus. Tired of the causes of telemachus.

    • saffrin

      telemachus doesn’t dominate anything.
      He/she’s just another Labourite posting shyte about how everything being this Government’s fault while in typical Labourite mode of perpetual denial, denial, denial about the wreckage of a country his party left behind.

      • Daniel Maris

        Telemachus is a joke that doesn’t raise a laugh and is best ignored.

    • Portendorfer

      I have an inkling that that is just what the leftist collective want. The Spectator Magazine is strongly suspected to sponsor Telemachus to bring the best out in commentators such as yourself. Speaking for myself I enjoy the banter. No one could actually believe the tripe spouted by Telemachus.
      Please rethink your intentions.

    • Kitty MLB

      Please don’t go Colonel you are one of the voices
      of sense and reason on this site.
      I wandered from the merky path of the other place
      because true conservatives were vanishing
      being replaced by brawling Lefties.
      Its also what the Lefties want, do you
      really want to help them?
      They live to torment and dictate.
      Do not know what you mean by down voting
      also, we can do that.

    • Kitty MLB

      As said before, this place needs genuine and loyal conservatives like you, Colonel.
      factually correct, knowledgeable and with excellent manners, someone who everyone respects. If all the good people left, the place would sink.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      No. You must not give up. As somebody once said, for evil to thrive (and The Labour Party is evil) all that is required is for good men and women to do nothing. Why is it not possible to mark that evil spud down by the way?

      • HookesLaw

        For evil to thrive all you have to do is vote Ukip and let in labour

        • Kitty MLB

          You have not a clue.

    • Noa

      I suspect that this nasty little change has been made primarily at the request of editors. The lefty dross that passes for such much of journalistic comment attracts much forthright criticism and both the editors and journalists, who have the impertinance to think they should lead and direct their customers’ opinions rather than listen to and respond to them, fear for their livelihoods when their unpopulatity with their audiences is displayed for alll the world to see.
      And of course we live in a world where the powers that be do not like us to give offence, however much they think nothing of giving offence to those from who they extract their wages.

    • gerontius

      Telemachus only dominates because others rise to the bait and engage with him.
      Ignore him – I have suggested this at least twice.

    • Simon Delancey

      If this “Telemachus” is as egregious a troll as you say then you should click on the “Flag as inappropriate” icon on his offending posts and the moderators will eventually take notice.

  • artemis in france

    Ah, now all becomes clear.

  • anyfool

    Bet365, an online operator whose owners are generous donors to the Labour Party.
    I wondered at what pricked the conscience of people whose morals are unconscionable.

  • Daniel Maris

    Is it me or is Coffee House seemingly have problems staying relevant these days. I’m waiting on interesting post about most recent developments in Ukraine and – zilch…

    • Durham Dan

      Is there really that much more to be said about the most recent developments in Ukraine? Pro-Russian government is eventually toppled by pro EU protesters, and no doubt several years down the line when the Ukrainians realise that Brussels isn’t really that much more democratic than Moscow chaos will ensue again. Like so many of these protests/coups/civil wars they’re not driven by a desire to see Western style democracy and liberalism etc. etc. (as the BBC would have you believe), but a simple desire for better living conditions.

      Egypt, Syria, Libya, Thailand, Ukraine…. there’s only so much I can take. Sorry to sound insensitive to the plight of these people but I’m not sure how our blanket news coverage or, in some cases disastrous intervention, has helped them.

      If you want to hear more about it why not tune into the wall to wall coverage on BBC News or Sky? Or you could listen to this week’s Telegraph podcast, which features Peter Oborne and Janet Daley shrieking self righteously at each other on the subject.

      Anyway, off topic there. Yeah.. FOBTs,.. something else the government has found to ban. Maybe we should have a Ukrainian style revolution?

      • Alexsandr

        but what is happening in Venezuela?

        • Fergus Pickering

          And in the Faroe Islands , Good Heavens.

          • Daniel Maris

            Well, why not…anything better than “Farage is Frit”, “The Economy is Booming”… etc

            I think the election being so near has led to a precipitate decline in the editorial input here – I guess the Speccie is first and foremost a Tory flag-waver.

            • Kitty MLB

              I Beseech thee sir, tell me sir
              are they Tory flag-wavers or those
              slippery Tory -Lite Camservative flag-wavers.
              Its becoming close to the election as
              you say .
              My usual blogsite is also in election
              mode, so much so that only the
              bleetings from HQ can be heard,
              comrades and myself are boycotting
              the place, hence we are here for the
              time being.

            • Fergus Pickering

              Well of course it is. And the Staggers is a Socialist (labour) flag waver. What did you think?

              • Kitty MLB

                That is the closest any Cameroon has come to
                admitting there are Socialist ( conservative) flag wavers.
                You sir have integrity, a quality Hookes Law has issues with.
                This place is actually very reasonable, unlike CameroonHome.
                I have a request, could people here please pursuade
                the Colonel not to leave, this place needs
                loyal and genuine conservatives like him, everyone
                here respects him, he offers true knowledge to any
                debate, also he’s a gentleman of the first water, and
                should be appreciated.

                • Fergus Pickering

                  Certainly the Colonel must not leave. Nor, I think, will he. The urge to instruct will prove too strong.

                  Should the Labour Party win the next election (as they might) life as we know it will not cease. My pensions will go on being paid. My daughters will continue in their government employment. Of course the Eds will make an almighty cock-up of everything, as they always do, and they lack a plausible rogue like Tony Blair, to put a gloss on the idiotic courses they pursue. I shall be sorry we will not have the chance to get out of the EU but, please God, the euro will collapse utterly, the Greeks revolt, the Dutch secede.

                • Noa

                  Most panglossian, Fergus. If your pensions are paid by the government you may indeed rest more secure in the long, twilight coffin- dodging phase we post-workers inhabit. It may not take too much milibandianism, or even cameronism, given the upnward march of debt, to see granny re-cycling her old Kiing Edwards outside Bank on winter evening.

                • Fergus Pickering

                  Try to look on the bright side. It could be much worse. We might live in Burkina Fasso – wherever that is. Old people have a duty not to be miserable old gits..

                • Noa

                  Do you take your bath half full Fergus, or half empty? Or is it twice the size it needs to be? Or half?

                • Fergus Pickering

                  My bath is full, even to overflowing.

                • Noa

                  Then long may you be able to pay the cost of replastering your dining room ceiling.

                • Kitty MLB

                  Who said this bath was upstairs
                  it may be a tin bath in the living room,
                  by the fire, containing grubby water
                  because all the family used it and he was
                  Noa, if you do not mind me being
                  so bold, you have a somewhat Viking
                  look about your picture.
                  Also coffin-dodging twilight,
                  very expressive.
                  Those in the winter of their years must
                  be waiting for the cold, thin hands of
                  the cloaked figure named Moribund
                  to come knocking- but never mind,
                  as long as you have a happy disposition
                  that is all that matters, Mr Viking.

                • Noa

                  “…it may be a tin bath in the living room,
                  by the fire, containing grubby water
                  because all the family used it and he was

                  Please tell us it ain’t so. Otherwise my mental image of the Cateauneuf du Pape marinated Drones Clubber will be destroyed forever!

                  And Kitty, a Google image search will reveal my avator if you really want to know.

                • Kitty MLB

                  I could not possibly live with the idea of your mental image being destroyed, your equilibrium so crushed.
                  Banish the image, think of a debonair gentleman
                  as he jauntily perambulates through the Metropolis
                  as graceful as a tiger.
                  I am also sure when such a specimen decides to
                  bath he would have mountain spring water especially
                  sent down from the highlands for the task.
                  I am still struggling to find you avator, shall try
                  again Viking chap, yet it may be the case some remain
                  a mystery- which is fine, to know everything would
                  be soul destroying :)

                • Kitty MLB

                  Thank You, you make some valid and thought provoking
                  Life as we know it will not indeed cease with a Labour
                  Government, because we are still living with the consequences of the last, and it takes more the one
                  Parliament for people to feel the benefits of change.
                  Yet indeed Labour may win, yet people should be
                  somewhat apprehensive about this for different reasons.
                  We will not have the two Ed’s, more then likely
                  Balls and Cable ( no one will get a majority)
                  According to Telemachus ( who works for Labour)
                  and those who speak in the background of that party,
                  Miliband’s days are numbered, after the election he is history.
                  I wholeheartedly agree with you in regards to the EU,
                  yet do you honestly believe it will collapse utterly ?
                  Especially with Merkel and her plans for a new
                  EU, after the Southern counties have been forced to leave. It could take decades.

      • Daniel Maris

        Well I think the fact that the Ukraine is a big country of 44 million squeezed between the EU and Russia is something we might reflect on. It’s not something we can easily ignore.

        What will Putin do? “Nothing” doesn’t sound like his sort of style.

  • Darnell Jackson

    A thorough study of the likely adverse effect should be prerequisite for all new policy implementation.

    As you rightly point out Freddy, it often does more harm than good.

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