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Gamblers to set limits on machines
Gamblers will be able to set limits on the amount of time and money they spend on gaming machines under a new code of conduct launched by the industry.
The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) said the code, which will also introduce mandatory alerts when a customer has spent £250 or played for 30 minutes, was part of its "ongoing efforts to tackle problem gambling".
Betting shop staff will receive training to help identify problem gamblers and to offer advice and support, and be expected to undergo regular refresher courses.
In a move that the ABB claims is a world first, customers will set their own limits on the time and money they want to spend on a machine.
Staff will be alerted when the limit is reached and the machine will alert the customer and force a 30-second break in play.
The technology to enable the new measures is being installed on 33,000 machines across England and Wales, although testing and installation requirements mean they will take up to six months to introduce.
The ABB said the code, which comes into effect tomorrow, had the "full support" of the gambling industry.
ABB chief executive Dirk Vennix said: "The code will help give players more control and encourage responsible gambling. It forms part of the industry's ongoing, proactive efforts to be socially responsible, to tackle problem gambling and to ensure a duty of care towards every customer.
"We recognise growing concerns that some customers are spending too much money or too much time on gaming machines. We want to take steps to protect them because one problem gambler is one too many.
"That is why we have put together the code, which introduces revolutionary new harm minimisation measures, the likes of which have yet to be seen anywhere in the world.
"The industry has come together as one to promote responsible gambling. It is united in a fierce commitment to help vulnerable people. That is why the measures that the code introduces go above and beyond regulatory requirements.
"We believe the measures strike the right balance between protecting customers without stopping the enjoyment of the eight million people who play on gaming machines without any problems."
Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, said: "The player protection and harm minimisation measures proposed go further than anything else emanating from the UK gambling sector in the past.
"Some of the measures proposed are innovative and potentially world-leading and I am delighted that the ABB has taken such a proactive stance in their efforts to promote responsible gambling and minimise problem gambling."
Dirk Hansen, chief executive of gambling advice service GamCare, said: I welcome the ABB's move towards offering greater protections for players, encouraging responsible play and for raising awareness amongst betting shop customers about the help that is available for problem gambling.
"These new measures will not only educate players to the risks associated with gambling but also empower individuals to get support when they need it."
Responsible Gambling Trust chief executive Marc Etches said: " The Responsible Gambling Trust, as a charity committed to minimising gambling-related harm, has been asked by the ABB to commission an independent and systematic review of the ABB's new code of practice. The evaluation will assess the code's short-term and long-term impacts on consumer behaviour and will form an important part of the RGT's recently announced programme of research into gaming machines located in licensed betting offices.
"The ABB will fund this work but the nature of all research activity is wholly the responsibility of the RGT's research committee. The research committee consists of five trustees who are wholly independent of the gambling industry."
Gambling minister Helen Grant said: " The new player protection code is a positive step in the right direction from the industry, but we think more could be done.
"Problem gambling is a serious issue and we are determined to help tackle it. We want there to be a competitive gambling sector but not at the expense of public protection, and our ongoing review is focused on that."