An alliance of nine UK Christian organisations is calling for the Government to heed evidence published on 30 March which further undermines proposals to double the stake and the prize money for pub gambling machines.
For the first time ever, they say, this proposal - considered this week by the House of Commons Delegated Legislative Committee - would increase the levels of prize money available to casual gamblers to above the level of some weekly benefits.
Their campaign, 'Fruitless', calls for the government to rethink the measures. The groups claim that the government is in danger of breaking its commitment to establish gambling policy on evidence and to use regulation to minimise problem gambling.
Two reports published by the Gambling Commission on the eve of the Commons vote offer substantial evidence that problem gambling is more prevalent in areas of social deprivation and amongst those who drink heavily or have poor health, say campaigners.
They suggest this indicates that the proposals, which increase the potential for people to lose money on pub gaming machines, will hit the most vulnerable hardest.
The latest gambling proposals have been criticised by faith groups, academics and commentators who say the government has been unable to produce positive evidence to support the move.
David Bradwell, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the British Methodist Church, said: “In the light of the current economic situation and the growing body of evidence, it would be irresponsible to increase the stake and prize money for pub gambling machines. We only have to look at the Australian experience to see the potential a poorly regulated gambling industry has to create social problems.
“At this time of over 2 million unemployed and many families facing a difficult financial future, it cannot be right to encourage increased gambling amongst the most vulnerable in our society.”
Fruitless is an alliance of nine UK Christian organisations including the Methodist Church, the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the United Reformed Church, the Evangelical Alliance, Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) and the Salvation Army.
For more information about Fruitless, visit www.fruitless.org.uk
The Gambling Commission’s research concerning alcohol, tobacco and health with regards to gambling can be found here: http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/Client/mediadetail.asp?mediaid=493&....
Research on socio-economic factors is outlined here: http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/Client/mediadetail.asp?mediaid=494&id=1