Gambling addiction is a real problem which blights communities and households across the country. The SNP are deeply concerned about the proliferation of Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals and the consequences for problem gamblers, and we have paid close attention to this issue in Parliament – particularly through the work of the All Party Parliamentary Group on this issue, which is chaired by my SNP colleague Stuart McDonald MP.
My SNP colleague Ronnie Cowan MP wrote to the Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage Tracey Crouch MP in October on this matter. The Minister confirmed the UK Government are undertaking a review of FOBTs, and we look forward to scrutinising the outcome of this review when it is published.
It is the SNP’s position that for full and robust regulation of gambling more broadly, further powers must be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. This would give the SNP Government in Scotland the ability to consider the issues more closely, do the necessary research, and undertake the necessary development work to make regulation as effective as possible. During the passage of the Scotland Act 2016 in Westminster, the SNP tabled an amendment which would have given full effect to the Smith Commission’s recommendation 74, which stated ‘The Scottish Parliament will have the power to prevent the proliferation of Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals’ – however the Act still falls far short in this regard.
Following the issue being raised with the Scottish Parliament Public Petitions Committee in 2012 by my colleague, West Dunbartonshire SNP Council Group Leader, Cllr Jonathan McColl (video below), the Scottish Government has already used the planning system, via the Scottish Planning Policy, to begin to tackle Pay Day Lenders and Betting Shops. Action has also been taken using planning policy to address over-provision and clustering of premises. The majority of the Scottish Government’s 12 point Action Plan on Pay Day Lending and Gambling has already been delivered. However with insufficient powers the SNP Government can only go so far in tackling the proliferation of FOBTs. Allowing local authorities and bodies greater control to regulate betting shops would make regulation far more effective and targeted. In 2011 the SNP Government in Scotland wrote to the UK Government on this issue, but the necessary amendments to the Gambling Act 2005 have not been made.
We hope that the UK Government’s review is thorough and robust, and looks at a holistic approach to tackling the effects of FOBTs.