Gamblers on trial for vandalism claim betting machines caused automatism

Two gamblers on trial for causing damage to fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT) in a Ladbrokes shop have claimed that the machines caused temporary automatism as their defence.

Fixed-odds betting terminals at Ladbrokes

Restrictions are likely to be imposed on fixed-odds betting terminals after the government’s review of the industry. © Daily Mail.

In December 2016, Aaron Cawley and John Dymock, residents of Cheltenham, were charged of causing over £20k in damages to machines in a Ladbrokes betting shop. Both individuals had lost over £1k within half an hour in the store, which caused them to vandalise the store’s property. Dymock had plead guilty, but has since withdrawn the plea, with the pair now planning to tell the court that they will plead not guilty, citing temporary automatism caused by the FOBT as the reason.

Automatism is a form of temporary insanity that can be used in court to claim that a defendant was not aware or in control of their actions. Both have claimed that the bright, flashing lights and repetitive, electronic sounds of the machines had caused them to slip into the out of control state, which then lead to their actions.

Alison Gurden, attorney for the pair, told a judge at the pair’s August hearing that automatism caused by the machines was to blame. Last week, in a secondary hearing, Gurden also raised the point that both had filled out a self-exclusion form, but were still allowed into the shop. Gurden has been asked by the judge to prepare a report to substantiate the claims. A review has been set for December.

Government’s review of fixed-odds terminals expected this week

The spotlight is on FOBTS currently and the industry has long been awaiting a government review that will be published later this week. The review is expected to bring in restrictions on the amount that can be bet using the machines.

Currently, the machines allow gamblers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds. One suggestion that the industry is fearing could be contained in the report is a cut to £2. Bookmakers would reportedly welcome a cut to £50, while the other possible outcome is for the stake to be reduced to between £10 and £30.

The review will also comment on a notion raised by the Labour party for gambling companies to fund a problem gambling awareness campaign. A number of firms have already made a formal offer to government to fund a gambling addiction awareness advertising campaign in anticipation of the report.

After publication, the review will undergo a 12-week consultation by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS).

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