Churches criticise government for gambling with lives

Christian groups are accusing the Government of gambling withlives in a response to plans from the Department for Culture, Media& Sport (DCMS).

DCMS are planning to increase stakes and prizes for the most widelyavailable slot machines in Britain. Under new proposals, stakes andprizes for Category C machines would double with maximum stakesgoing up to £1 and maximum prizes rising to £70. At a time ofincreasing poverty and unemployment, the maximum prize for a pubfruit machine will be higher than weekly benefit levels.

The Methodist Church, the Church of England, the Church ofScotland, Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs, the Baptist Union ofGreat Britain, the United Reformed Church, the EvangelicalAlliance, CARE and The Salvation Army have launched their campaignchallenging the move.

Fruitless is a response to the proposals and a call for thegovernment not to implement the measures.

The Church of England's Home Affairs Policy Adviser, ChristopherJones, said; 'With global recession looming, unemployment risingand disposable income falling, the Government has gone back on itsearlier concern for vulnerable people in response to pressure fromthe gambling industry. While it is right that there should beperiodic reviews of stakes and prizes, the proposed increases areexcessive and will encourage people to risk money that they simplycannot afford to lose. The Government should return to its moremodest proposals made last summer and remember the arguments whichpersuaded it then not to opt for larger increases. It is wrong thatpeople who are liable to engage in problem gambling should be madeto pay the price of protecting businesses from economicpressures.'

'Slot machines are one of the most addictive forms of gambling,because of the repetitive and solitary nature of play,' added DavidBradwell, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the British MethodistChurch. 'The Government claim to be committed to protecting thosevulnerable to gambling addiction, but have ignored our calls forcaution and proper analysis. Fruitless is a stand for vulnerablepeople in the face of these ridiculous proposals.'

Supporters are being encouraged to sign up to an online petition:http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/fruitless/.

The campaign is also supported by a website - www.fruitless.org.uk -which features personal stories of gambling addiction, as well astips for getting involved in the campaign and in-depth informationon the issues.