Reply to calls to relax slot machine law delayed - Friday 25th of April 2008

The government will wait until after parliaments spring break to respond to calls from bingo and amusement arcade operators to soften rules that have reduced the number of slot machines allowed on their premises.

New gambling laws have hit the industry hard by forcing the removal of thousands of highly profitable 500 pound jackpot machines, with gambling firms warning that swathes of clubs and arcades will go out of business unless something is done.

Both industries have pleaded with the government to rejig the new rules that limit the number of slot machines to four per club, down from the previous rules that allowed four two-pound stake machines per club and an unlimited number of one-pound stake versions.

Having told politicians last week he would make a statement on the issue "very shortly", political sources told Reuters that gambling and sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe had originally pencilled in Wednesday to issue a written statement.

"Its a complex issue, discussions are still ongoing, and we will make an announcement in due course," said a government spokeswoman, who added the statement would now be made after the nearly three-week-long spring recess.

Despite the desperate calls from the industry, industry watchers believe the government will announce plans to review the situation rather than make any immediate changes.

Gambling addiction helpline GamCare says around 20 percent of the 30,000 calls it receives are related to slot machines, rising to 45 percent if all types of gaming machines, such as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, are included.

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