Churches highlight new evidence on problem gambling

Today the Commons Delegated Legislative Committee will reviewGovernment proposals to double the stake and the prize money forpub gambling machines. For the first time ever, this would increasethe levels of prize money available to casual gamblers to above thelevel of weekly benefits.

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

Two reports published by the Gambling Commission on the eve of thiscrucial Commons vote offer substantial evidence that problemgambling is more prevalent in areas of social deprivation andamongst those who drink heavily or have poor health. This indicatesthat the proposals, which increase the potential for people to losemoney in pub gaming machines, will hit the most vulnerablehardest.

The proposals have been criticised by faith groups, academics andcommentators, as the Government has been unable to produce positiveevidence to support the move.

David Bradwell, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the BritishMethodist Church, said; "In the light of the current economicsituation and the growing body of evidence it would beirresponsible to increase the stake and prize money for pubgambling machines. We only have to look at the Australianexperience to see the potential a poorly regulated gamblingindustry has to create social problems.

"At this time of over 2 million unemployed and many families facinga difficult financial future it cannot be right to encourageincreased gambling amongst the most vulnerable in oursociety."

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