Christians urging Theresa May to launch crackdown on betting machines

A coalition of Christians is calling on U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to launch a crackdown on betting terminals, saying the negative effects of the highly addictive machines should not be downplayed just because of the tax income they generate.

(REUTERS / Max Rossi)A man plays on a slot machine in a bingo hall in downtown Rome July 6, 2012.

Fixed-odd betting terminals have been described as the "crack cocaine" of gambling, and users can gamble 100 British pounds every 20 seconds. The rising popularity of these highly addictive machines has allegedly led to crimes, debt, and family issues. Christian charity CARE said these terminals are focused in the country's poorer areas, Christian Today detailed.

CARE chief executive Nola Leach is calling on the government to continue the plan to conduct reviews on FOBTs. She urged the country's leaders to stop depending on the "exploitation of vulnerable people" for additional revenue and find other means to raise the needed money.

Every year, the Treasury bags 400 million pounds from the 1.8 billion pounds that people gamble on FOBTs. Campaigners are calling for the maximum stake to be reduced to two pounds, but a Whitehall source warned that doing so would deliver a heavy financial blow to the Treasury.

However, the policy advisor for Joint Public Issues Team --- a group comprised of Baptists, Methodists the Church of Scotland, and the United Reformed Church --- said the Treasury's tax income should not be considered more important than the harm that FOBTs inflict on citizens.

"£1.8 billion a year - around £5million a day - is lost on these machines yet the Government's review has already faced substantial delays," Joint Public Issues Team policy advisor Paul Morrison told CT. "Action to curb the damage caused by companies operating these machines is long overdue."

Dr. Alan Smith, the Bishop of St. Albans, has promised to keep campaigning against the U.K. government's plans to regulate FOBTs. He was the one who introduced the Private Member's Bill which will let local authorities supervise and manage the matter of betting machines in their respective areas, Church Times reported.

Dr. Smith pointed out that the government promised to publish the review of FOBTs in autumn, but reports suggested that the Treasury was resisting efforts to regulate the machines because of its impact on tax receipts. Nevertheless, the Bishop of Albans said he will not stop fighting for stricter regulations because of the immense harm that gambling terminals are causing.