MPs call for action on AWPs

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Related tags: Gambling, Public house, Slot machine, John grogan

MPs are calling for urgent government action to help community pubs by increasing the stake and prizes for AWP machines.As part of the 2005 Gambling...

MPs are calling for urgent government action to help community pubs by increasing the stake and prizes for AWP machines.

As part of the 2005 Gambling Act, the Gaming Board recommended the stake and maximum prize for £25-jackpot fruit machines was increased to 50p and £35 respectively.

But the government has failed to act on the recommendations.

According to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), the pub industry has lost £200m per year in income generated from gaming machines since 2002.

Now MP John Grogan has tabled an Early Day Motion calling for the government to implement the increases.

"The income generated from gaming machines is absolutely crucial to community and rural pubs," said Mr Grogan, who is also chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group.

He has been joined by the Conservative MP Malcolm Moss and Lib Dem MP Don Foster, both shadow culture ministers, in urging the changes.

"There's been a fear this issue could create political controversy, but in tabling this motion we have been able to demonstrate cross-party support," Mr Grogan added.

The political storm surrounding the new Licensing Act and pubs had sparked "nervousness" in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Mr Grogan claimed.

But the MP said he was now "hopeful" the government would bring in the changes, which have received widespread backing from the trade.

Martin Rawlings, the BBPA's director of pub and leisure, said the changes needed to be swift.

"With the nature of today's market we can't wait," he said. "Otherwise there won't be a market to save."

Among the factors that have been luring players away from pubs are fixed-odds betting terminals in betting shops and online gambling.

Mr Rawlings added that changes had been made at the top end of the gaming market, but not at the bottom end.

He said: "If we are losing this many people, then it's the product that's tired."

Kevin O'Connor, licensee at the Swan Inn, in Newton Abbot, Devon, said he put the drop in income down to the fact there were so many other places to gamble these days.

He added: "The prizes should be the same as clubs, there should be a level playing field. Why should someone want to play a machine in the pub when they can only win £25?"

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