Government criticised for gambling legislation change

Yesterday Parliament agreed to double the amount of money thatcan be staked and won on the kind of fruit machines found in pubsand amusement arcades. This means that the prize limit on fruitmachines will be higher than weekly benefit levels, at a time whenmany families will be struggling to make ends meet.

In response, an alliance of nine UK Christian organisations hasissued the following statement:

"We are deeply disappointed, though not surprised, by the decisionof Parliament to accept the Government's proposals to increasestakes and prizes for category C and D gaming machines. TheGovernment had promised that no such increase would be made until afurther gambling prevalence study had been published and hasreneged on this promise. We do not know what effects thislegislation will have on the levels of problem gambling or on thelives of those already addicted to slot machines, but we havealways urged the Government to act with caution.

"We will continue to campaign for the protection of thosevulnerable to the harmful effects of gambling and to call on thegovernment to put people before profits. We particularly call onthe Government:

•to prohibit children from gambling and to research the effects ofallowing them to do so. Britain remains the only developed countrythat allows children to play on fruit machines, and the substantialincrease in prizes for children will add another hazard that shouldbe evaluated;

•only to increase future stake and prize values in line withinflation, at no more than 3 yearly intervals;

•and to undertake research into the impact of these changes, with apromise to reverse the decision if this research demonstrates alikely increase in problem gambling."

The Methodist Church, The Church of England, The Salvation Army,The Church of Scotland, The Baptist Union of Great Britain, TheUnited Reformed Church, Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs, theEvangelical Alliance and Care.

Toby Scott, Director of Communications and Campaigns for theMethodist Church added, "Although we are disappointed with thisdecision, we are extremely grateful for the level of support wehave received and to all those who have added their voices to thiscampaign."