Sunderland MP lucks out in battle against fixed odds betting machines

Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott
Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott
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A CITY MP has spoken of her disappointment after Parliament rejected plans to increase controls on high stakes gambling machines.

Figures released by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling show there are almost 60 licensed betting shops with 208 fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) across the city, which campaigners describe as the “crack cocaine of gambling”

The Echo reported last year that Wearsiders had staked a staggering £270million on betting terminals in just 12 months, with the machines described as the “crack cocaine” of gambling because they are so addictive.

A debate was held in the House of Commons this week where Labour called on the government to give local councils the power to restrict them, but was defeated by 314 to 232 votes.

Labour MP for Sunderland Central Julie Elliott told debate on FOBTs: “If you were to step off the train at Sunderland station, you would see a betting shop straight away, and you would not need to walk far to see several more.

“According to the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, in 2012 there were 30 betting shops in Sunderland Central, with 109 fixed odds betting terminals, with gross gambled amounts of nearly £120million, the second highest in the North East.

“The machines have been referred to as the crack cocaine of gambling so often that it is easy to become blasé about their effects, but the reason they are referred to in such terms is that their relentless speed and high stakes can be devastating.”

Labour had hoped Liberal Democrats and some Conservative MPs would oppose the Government and support demands for more controls.

After the debate Ms Elliott told the Echo: “Fixed odds betting terminals target areas of deprivation, and take money away from those who can least afford it.

“They drag vulnerable people in Sunderland Central into cycles of debt, exacerbate our cost of living crisis, and turn other shoppers off visiting our high streets. Labour would grant local authorities the power to restrict the number of betting shops opening in their areas and revoke or reduce the number of fixed odds betting terminals in each branch. I’m disappointed that the Government failed to back Labour’s motion.’’