Tuesday, 6 November 2018

FOB-bed Off - Profits v. Prophets

I know very little about betting. I don't participate in the Lottery, buy raffle tickets, back the horses, or know how to fill in a pools coupon [do paper coupons still even exist?] Even if I didn't reject such activities because of my Christian principles, I wouldn't bother because I have studied enough statistics to know that the biggest winners are the bookies, Camelot and that Government Department which collects the excise.
But I do know that gambling has become a massive problem in this country. I am aware of people who have been quite caught up in this dreadful addiction. For some it is an online problem - in the privacy of their homes, they tap away blithely losing their income, their earnings, their futures. But for many the activity takes place in betting shops, using the "FOBT" - fixed odds betting terminals.
I read of teenagers going out of school in the lunch hour, to the FOBTs in betting shops- and spending their lunch money in the vain hope of winning a fortune. They get a small win, and then plough it all back in, in the hopes of a bigger payout. And it doesn't come - but they are hooked -so they beg, borrow and steal, in the hopes that the next try will be the winning one. And often end up losing everything. University students are doing it in attempt to clear their student debts- but falling into deeper holes.
It is a fast activity, people at the terminals click away almost in a trance, unaware if the money they are committing. And many people have found themselves homeless, on the streets, cut off from families, out of work, caught up in a debt spiral...and the suicide statistics are horrifying.
Isn't that awful? YES IT IS! Charities, pressure groups, bereaved parents, MPs, clergy...many people have lobbied our Government for a long time to limit the maximum stake every 20 seconds to £2, not £100. And yet when last week's Budget Statement was read out, the chancellor said this could not be implemented till next October. THAT'S A WHOLE YEAR AWAY. Statistics show that there are likely to be more than 300 FOBT-related suicides in that time - people who are addicted and see no other way out.
There were statements in the budget about putting money into Mental Health Issues. But because of lobbying by the Gambling Agencies, and MPs whose income derives not just from their £77K Parliamentary Salary, but also from investments in the Gambling Industry, Philip Hammond backtracked and deferred this much needed change in the regulations, even though it is a cause of so much mental distress.
This is Tracey Crouch - formerly "Under Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage". She has resigned over this issue. She couldn't stomach the thought of the number of young men and women dying because the change in regulations has been deferred. 
The support she has received from so many of her colleagues in both houses of Parliament and elsewhere has been quite overwhelming. But Mrs May accepted the resignation letter with waffly weasel words about the delay is to ensure the changes are implemented properly.
I've waited a few days before posting this rant in the hopes that there might be some sort of back-tracking, and the stake regulations would be altered more quickly. No sign of it yet. Just an announcement from Paddy Power that they have had a signoificant increase in revenue from FOBT - but will lose £46M a year when the changes do finally [if ever] come into force.
I am so conscious that as I get older I am standing up to injustice, shouting more loudly, speaking out more often, and following the lead of the Old Testament Prophets - even if it sometimes makes me unpopular with my hearers. If FOBT gambling leads to poverty, and addiction is a form of imprisonment for those trapped in its grip, then the words of Isaiah 61 are more important than ever
The Sovereign Lord has … sent me
To bring good news to the poor,
To heal the broken-hearted,
To announce release to captives
And freedom to those in prison.
May God bless this young woman, and send more principled-people like her to serve at Westminster. People seeking to serve their constituents and their nation, not to benefit the rich and selfish. Rant over...


  1. A very important and very eloquent rant. Thank you. Tracey Crouch is definitely a woman of courage.

  2. Let me stand with you, Angela, as I too wept when I heard the news. Feisty women together can surely make a change.

  3. I admit to playing the lottery but only a few dollars out of my personal spending money and just for fun. My dad liked to bet on the horses and play cards but he taught us early on that it was for fun only and that once your fun money was spent - that was it. No matter what your situation the bills were paid first and food put on the table. If there was discretionary money left to spend then it was up to you but there was a line not to be crossed.
    We've had issues here with seniors being caught up with both online gambling and the bus runs to the casinos that target seniors, offering free bus rides and lunches to get them out and spending. Loneliness was a factor - these runs became their social outings but the pressure was on to spend more and more and it was becoming a serious issue! I do think there should be limits - no one under 18 is allowed to purchase lottery tickets here but I think other limits should be in place - especially as regards online gambling. And perhaps payouts should be moderated in some ways as well so that the few who do win aren't totally overwhelmed or targeted for their windfall - we hear stories all the time about foolish people who manage to somehow spend millions, losing friends and family along the way. It often ends up a sad story instead of a wonderful one.

  4. It IS terrible!! It's an addiction which can kill like smoking and alcohol although it seems so much desperation is involved in it. The delay reminds me of the one about plastic.They don't want to be unpopular with industry so they defer!


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