31 March 2009

Churches highlight new evidence on problem gambling

Today the Commons Delegated Legislative Committee will review Government proposals to double the stake and the prize money for pub gambling machines. For the first time ever, this would increase the levels of prize money available to casual gamblers to above the level of weekly benefits.

An alliance of nine UK Christian organisations is calling for the Government to heed evidence published yesterday that further undermines the proposals. Their campaign, Fruitless, calls for the Government to rethink the measures. The groups claim that the Government is in danger of breaking its commitment to establish gambling policy on evidence, and to use regulation to minimise problem gambling.

Two reports published by the Gambling Commission on the eve of this crucial Commons vote offer substantial evidence that problem gambling is more prevalent in areas of social deprivation and amongst those who drink heavily or have poor health. This indicates that the proposals, which increase the potential for people to lose money in pub gaming machines, will hit the most vulnerable hardest.

The proposals have been criticised by faith groups, academics and commentators, as the Government has been unable to produce positive evidence to support the move.

David Bradwell, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the British Methodist Church, said; "In the light of the current economic situation and the growing body of evidence it would be irresponsible to increase the stake and prize money for pub gambling machines. We only have to look at the Australian experience to see the potential a poorly regulated gambling industry has to create social problems.

"At this time of over 2 million unemployed and many families facing a difficult financial future it cannot be right to encourage increased gambling amongst the most vulnerable in our society."

For more information about Fruitless, visit www.fruitless.org.uk

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