Brits lose £1 billion a year on gambling machines
Filed under: News
So just how serious is the risk?
FOBTsThe issue is highlighted in Channel Four's Dispatches programme tonight. It centres around betting machines known as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). These are slots machines that run a variety of casino games and take up to £100 every 20 seconds. They appeal to punters because they pay out more than traditional slot machines, and they make gamblers feel that they are winning because the returns are better than the machines they are used to.
The Gambling Act of 2005 allowed up to four of these to be installed in every betting shop, and their growth has been phenomenal. The programme says the machines take around £18,000 a minute, and that more is being lost on these machines by problem gamblers than on dog and horse racing, plus casino betting combined.
Research done for the programme concluded that a total of £1 billion is being lost on these machines by British punters every year.
Hitting the poorestThe programme also says that these machines are being concentrated on the poorest areas. The Responsible Gambling Fund and The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board carried out research at the end of last year that found that gambling machines are significantly more likely to be found in areas where a higher proportion of people have relatively low incomes, where there are more young people and where there are higher proportions of ethnic minority groups.
Interviewed for the documentary, Harriet Harman, part of the Labour government that relaxed the rules, said that had legislators been aware of how betting shops are concentrated in poorer areas: "we wouldn't have allowed this, because it's not just ruining the high street, it's ruining people's lives... I think we were wrong, we have made a mistake and this result is the consequence and we need to do something about it."
Problem gamblingProfessor Jim Orford, a Psychologist at Birmingham University, and founder of Gambling Watch UK says that the machines pose a very real risk. He highlights that problem gambling is increasing. The latest British Gambling Prevalence Survey found that between one third and one half a million British adults experienced a gambling problem in the previous 12 months.
He said "This represents a sizable public health problem similar in magnitude to the problem of the misuse of Class A drugs. It also indicated that prevalence had risen by 40 to 50% in the three years since the previous survey."
He added that around a quarter of the money spent on these machines is by problem gamblers.
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