A new bookmakers code of conduct to tackle problem gambling has received a mixed reaction in Bradford.
The Association of British Bookmakers’ scheme will allow gamblers to set limits on the amount of time and money they spend on gaming machines, such as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, in bookies’ shops.
The code, which comes into force today, will see mandatory alerts on a machine when a customer has spent £250 or played for 30 minutes. Betting shop staff will receive training to help identify problem gamblers and offer advice and support.
The move was welcomed by MP Philip Davies, whose family used to run a small bookmakers business.
Mr Davies (Con, Shipley) said: “Bookmakers have shown they have no interest in relying on problem gamblers and are doing as much as they can to ensure people spend only what they can afford to lose in a time scale that is acceptable.
“The alternative is that people play exactly the same games at home on the internet with an unlimited amount of time and money. I much prefer that people play in a public area with controls in place.”
But Bradford Council leader, Councillor David Green, said, though the code went some way to addressing problem gambling, he did not think it would make a major difference.
Coun Green said: “I don’t think the safe limit is going to work for problem gamblers because that needs the individual to recognise they have got a problem.”
He questioned how the machine alerts would work because of the number of staff available in shops and the willingness of an individual to take notice.
Coun Green added: “To some extent this is an attempt at damage limitation, but I don’t think it addresses the fundamental problem that Fixed Odds Betting Terminals cause.”
According to the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, which is trying to stop Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, there are scores of these gaming machines in the district’s betting shops.
The T&A’s Beat The Betting Blight campaign is calling for a change in planning rules that would give local authorities the power to stop a new bookmakers opening if they felt it would be detrimental to the local shopping environment.