09 March 2005

More than 35,000 people say stop children gambling on fruit machines

More than 35,000 people across the UK say children should be banned from gambling on fruit machines. But the Government remains unwilling to make the necessary changes to the Gambling Bill to ensure children are fully protected. In just five days more than 35,000 people have signed a petition organised by The Salvation Army, the Methodist Church and children's charity NCH and number of signatures continues to rise.

The Gambling Bill reaches its committee stage in the House of Lords on Thursday 10th March. An amendment to the bill has been put down which would ban children from gambling on category D fruit machines, while allowing them to carry on playing on teddy-bear grabbing machines and penny falls. Britain remains the only country in the developed world that allows children to gamble.

"The response from the public has been overwhelming. To get this number of responses in such a short space of time indicates the strength of feeling on this issue, which frankly the Government seems to have underestimated," commented Jonathan Lomax from The Salvation Army. "The Government has clearly said that children and gambling don't mix, yet they still will not act to ensure that children are adequately protected from the dangers posed by gambling on category D fruit machines."

Currently as long as a child is tall enough to put their money in the slot they can gamble on category D fruit machines, despite the fact that in an NOP poll 82% of respondents said that children and young people should not be allowed to gamble on fruit machines. Academics suggest that around 5% of British adolescents can be classified as 'problem gamblers' - more than five times the adult prevalence of problem gambling.

"The Government has made some welcome moves to protect children from gambling, but whilst children are still allowed to gamble on fruit machines they will remain at greater danger of developing a gambling problem," commented Rachel Lampard, from the Methodist Church. "Problem gambling in children often results in truancy, criminal records, problems at school and family breakdown - all problems which can permanently damage a child's growth and development. This is a serious child protection issue that Government needs to recognise and act upon." 

Comments from members of the public have indicated not only the high level of feeling about children and gambling but also the many ways that families have been affected. People have commented on their own children becoming addicted to fruit machines and dropping out of college, and about other family members becoming addicted whilst on family holidays.

The huge public response comes just two weeks after news that flawed research commissioned by the Government had been heavily criticised by leading academics and churches for grossly understating the problem of adolescent gambling.

Evidence shows that there is no public demand for an increase in gambling opportunities created by the new legislation as an NOP Poll indicates that 93% of the public think there are already enough opportunities to gamble.

The petition is available here

The Salvation Army and the Methodist Church have been campaigning on the Gambling Bill for more than 18 months for greater measures to protect children and vulnerable people.

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