Gambling machine limits in North-east shops to be considered by councillors

Councillors will tomorrow be asked for their views on a proposed shake-up at high-street betting shops.

Amid mounting pressure from politicians, the UK Government has launched a consultation and is considering limiting the maximum stake that can be placed on bookmakers’ roulette machines to anything between £2 and £50.

The current upper limit is £100, meaning gamblers can potentially lose £300 in a minute.

Senior politicians including Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart have been lobbying Westminister to change the law on what bookmakers can do.

The central Aberdeenshire licensing board, which is administered by Aberdeenshire Council, will meet tomorrow to consider how it should respond to the consultation.

Aberdeenshire’s north and south licensing boards, as well as Aberdeen City Council, have also been asked to contribute views before the consultation period ends on January 23.

They have been asked to say what they think the stake limit should be.

Another option being considered is slowing the pace at which spins take place.

Councillor Fergus Hood, who is a member of the central Aberdeenshire licensing board, said: “The issue of how fixed odds betting terminals are allowed to operate is very important and it is of tremendous value that the UK Government has asked us to contribute to this consultation.

“The board will consider the report that has been put before it and will consider how to respond having taken all factors into account.”

Mr Stewart said: “We have seen people who have taken their lives after losing cash in these machines.

“I have described these machines as the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ because of their addictive nature and the toll they can have on individuals and their communities.”

An Association of British Bookmakers spokesman said: “We believe the focus of any final decision should be to ensure measures are adopted that will be of genuine benefit to problem gamblers. Betting shops cater for more than 6 million customers every year and the vast majority of them gamble responsibly.”