Lewisham Gamblers call Mayor’s £2 Slot Machine Bet Limit Proposal “Unfair”

Most slot machines have a wide betting range, including a scale of coin denominations and multiple paylines to deliver minimum and maximum bets of 1p up to £100 per spin. This is what gamblers are accustomed to throughout England, and much of the modern world. But the Mayor of Lewisham wants to change that, restricting bet limits on electronic gaming machines (EGMs) to just £2.

Ladbrokes Betting Shop, LewishamMayor Sir Steve Bullock’s proposal was not met with empathy from the slot loving public. In fact, there was an outcry of his plan being “unfair” to those who play EGMs regularly.

If Bullock had his way, the number of betting shops in Lewisham would have already been reduced dramatically. However, since UK law does not permit him to propose a reduction in EGMs or the number of betting shops in the borough, he has instead written a letter to Tracey Crouch, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, requesting a £2 cap on bets.

Bookmakers are obviously displeased with the proposal, stating that such an imposition would place unfair restrictions on an individual’s freedom to bet. Gamblers mimicked that sentiment, adding that if the Mayor’s £2 limit succeeds, they will simply go elsewhere to play slot machines.

East London Line sent reporters onto the streets of the London borough to see how people felt about the proposal. Everyone seemed to be opposed to the Mayor’s plan, while some questioned his political right to even request such a change.

“There’s no point in changing it,” said 22 year old Lewisham-based construction worker, Michael Collard.  “It’s not up to the mayor. Why is it his business?” Collard called the bet limit “unfair”, arguing that “people should be able to go up to what amount they like.”

52 year old local Richard Anes expressed a similar opinion. “£100 is a fair limit to give people a choice on how much they bet. Why should there be a limit imposed on gambling? There should be a fair choice.”

Anes said such a change “would affect what I can do here. I’d have to go to casinos in central London to bet, in Leicester Square for example.”

Speaking with an unnamed duty manager from a Ladbrokes betting shop in Lewisham, East London Line was told, “£2 a bet is not a good idea because then the spin doesn’t give them the same pleasure or freedom that they like. Customers don’t always have to go to the limit and introducing the limit would just move customers to the West End, instead of staying and spending in the area.”

The purpose of the bet limit would be to minimize harm from gambling, but the CEO of the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), Malcolm George, considers the limitations to pose more of a threat to problem gamblers.

“The ABB has a focus on encouraging responsible gambling and addressing some of the issues that gamblers may face,” said George. “We don’t support such a drastic stake reduction such as those the mayor of Lewisham has proposed.

“Betting shops are the safest places to gamble,” he continued. “There are staff who can intervene if there’s a problem, there’s the option to self-exclude – to not go in to betting shops – and there is a supportive environment.” George said there is a higher risk that problem gamblers “will go elsewhere and choose to gamble in places that aren’t safe and secure.”

Representing The Campaign for Fair Betting, Adrian Parkinson spoke in support of the Mayor’s proposal. “£2 spins are a responsible gambling level, where harm is limited because the potential losses are limited. Councils have seen an element of violence and criminality emanating from betting shops, with some players losing thousands of pounds and then smashing up the machines,” he said.

“The situation in Lewisham is being replicated across the country. There are probably 100 councils which have passed motions to reduce bets to £2,” said Parkinson.

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