FOBT suicide and the politicians who forget what they’ve said

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The heartbroken partner of a man who took his own life after blowing more than £65,000 on the bookies fixed odds betting terminals, has called for restrictions on the controversial machines.

Wendy Bendel, who lost her partner Lee Murphy a year ago, told Scottish TV that after his first attempt to commit suicide, he had confessed that he had racked up tens of thousands of pounds worth of debts gambling on the bookies’ £100 a spin machines.

“He said it’s those machines, they’re addictive. They’re like a drug. The anticipation from when you get paid to go on the machines, the complete adrenalin rush and high of winning and the complete despair and destruction when you lose,” Wendy told STV, referring to heartbreaking letters Lee had written to her.

As far back as 2007 it was being highlighted that one in nine people who played the £300 a minute machines were classified as addictive or problem gamblers – the strongest link in any form of gambling. But wait a minute, one Tory voice in 2007 was attacking Gordon Brown and the Labour government, blaming FOBTs for problem gambling and saying “‘this is clear evidence that Labour has failed to get a grip of problem gambling. With around two million young people at risk of becoming problem gamblers Labour has created a public health time bomb which they don’t seem interested in tackling.” That was Jeremy Hunt as shadow culture spokesperson and one of those young people he accused Labour of failing would have been Lee Murphy!

Yet, even when appointed cabinet responsibility for gambling in 2010, Hunt didn’t tackle FOBTs. Now, as health secretary, he fails to recognize that gambling addiction is a mental health issue that desperately needs NHS treatment provision.

Some Tories now want to take action on FOBTs according to the Sunday Times. This time it isn’t Labour’s Gordon Brown blocking a clamp down on the addictive machines, it is our latest Prime Minister David Cameron, who has turned down a plea from DCMS for a full review of the crack cocaine machines. Like Jeremy Hunt, he seems to forget what he’s said. In 2013 Cameron told Parliament he promised to take a “proper look” at whether high stakes machines should be banned from betting shops.

Another generation is again being let down by yet another government.

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling is campaigning for the maximum stake on FOBTs to be reduced to £2 a spin, to prevent further heartbreak.

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