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Bishop says 20 second 'cooling off' time on gambling machines isn't enough

by Cara Bentley

The machines use Artificial Intelligence to spot whether the user is exhibiting addictive behaviour and will be introduced in betting shops such as William Hill, Paddy Power and Ladbrokes.

The Anonymous Player Awareness System (APAS) looks out for whether a player is betting erratically in order to keep playing and monitors how long they've been gambling for.

If the gamer is playing in a way that could danger them, they are locked out of it for at least 30 seconds and a manager is alerted.

Warnings are then displayed on the screen about safe gambling.

A "cooling off" period of 20 seconds will also stop a player gambling if they have been on the machine for 20 minutes.

Rt Rev Dr Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, who has campaigned about gambling in the House of Lords, said: "I am glad that the industry has acknowledged the problems its products are still creating on our high streets.

He said the idea was good and a step forward but: "As anyone who has ever watched people use these types of machines know, 20 seconds appears to be too small a time-limit. Could 20 seconds be so short that it is effectively meaningless?

"If this initiative is really going to help those experiencing gambling-related harm, it will need to have robust, transparent and independent academic review using anonymised data to test its effectiveness."

Bishop Alan added: "As the world and the gambling industry moves to an ever-increasing reliance of the Wild West of online, many will wonder why these initiatives, presumably designed to delay regulation on the high street, are not being extended to the online sphere.

"It is strange that industry chiefs are fighting any further regulation for their remote operations while at the same time trumpeting their efforts on the high street.

"What we have seen so far, however, continues to put the onus of responsibility on the consumer and not on the industry who are then free to create and then promote addictive gambling products.

"Even if the responsibility were put solely on the punter, a subsequent impact will certainly be felt in the lives of over-stretched, and often poorly paid, staff in bookies. The violence associated with these machines is a worrying trend and I hope this will not lead to a degradation in worker's experiences who often pay the price for decisions made in boardrooms."

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