Slot machinesThe recession has hit Rochdale in Lancashire so hard that even McDonald's in the town centre have had to close down.

But the level of poverty in the former mill town did not stop its residents pumping an incredible £72 million into high stakes betting machines last year.



The massive sum, which equates to £340 for every man, woman and child in the town, was spent by gamblers trying to get their hands on jackpots of up to £500 by playing highly addictive casino-style fixed odd betting terminals.

It has prompted campaigners to accuse bookmakers of targeting poverty-stricken communities where people are desperate for ways to make money.

Rochdale councillor Linda Robinson told the Daily Mail newspaper: "I have said for a long time that we have become a nation of gamblers. You find that every programme on TV is asking you to ring this number for a chance to win something.

"But some of these people who are making the choice to gamble on these machines cannot afford it."

Robinson's concerns are backed up by figures showing that there are 69 of these betting machines spread across 19 betting shops in Rochdale, which is home to Falinge - the most deprived estate in the country where four in five children live in poverty.

The Falinge estate's statistics certainly make depressing reading, with 72% of adult residents out of work and one in 10 teenage girls becoming mums before they turn 18.

Rochdale is far from the only area of the country where these high stake slot machines are raking in the cash for their owners, though.

According to The Sun newspaper, more than £1 million is staked on each fixed odds betting terminal in the UK. That's a breathtaking £2,858 a day, or £119 an hour.

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling is calling for the maximum stake to be slashed from £100 to a much less dangerous £2 in a bid to prevent Britons - especially those with little cash to spare - spending so much on machines of this kind.

However, the Association of British Bookmakers argues that betting shops are "socially responsible" and points out that they boost the government's coffers with taxes of £1 billion a year.