BY LIZZIE PARRY
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
PUNTERS in Ipswich lost an estimated £2.3million on betting shop casino machines – dubbed the “crack cocaine of gambling” – in only 12 months, according to a new report.
A spokesman for the Association of British Bookmakers said: “Electronic gaming machines in betting shops return 97% to the player, which means the real figure is just 3% of what is being claimed.
“The average spend by a player is around £10 and most people play for about 20 minutes at a time.
“The only way someone could lose £18,000 an hour is if they put £100 into a machine every twenty seconds and lost every single game. There is more chance of winning the National Lottery for three consecutive weeks than that happening.
“Only 4% of the UK population gambles using an electronic gaming machine in a betting shop, and the majority of players are in full time work and have formal qualifications from A Levels to degrees.
“This is all set out in the Gambling Prevalence Survey, published by the Gambling Commission, which has shown consistently for over ten years that the number of problem gamblers is fewer than one per cent of the population and that fixed odds betting terminals are one of the lowest used gambling products.
“It is wrong to claim betting shops target specific areas.
“Like all retailers betting shops open where there is customer demand, and of course there are more betting shops in areas of high population density than low, just as there are more newsagents or fast food outlets or any other retail business where there are more customers.
“We have always believed that customers have the right to decide how they spend their money. As businesses, we take our social responsibilities extremely seriously which is why we voluntarily contribute £5m each year for the research, education and treatment of problem gamblers. Without this source of funding, many charitable services would not be available.”
Campaigners say the high stakes and short spin cycles offered by Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT) have helped to make them highly addictive.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling (CFG) estimates each of the 73 machines, found in 20 bookmakers in the Ipswich parliamentary area, made an average profit of £32,416.
The report, which relates to the 2011/12 financial year, claims the turnover was a staggering £75m.
FOBT machines are found in most high street bookmakers and allow bets of up to £100 every 20 seconds.
They include games such as roulette, bingo and simulated horse racing. The Gambling Act 2005 restricts each shop to having a maximum of four terminals.
Adrian Parkinson, author of the research and a spokesman for non-profit CFG, spoke in Parliament last night to launch a crackdown campaign on the industry.
He is urging MPs to introduce greater restrictions on the use of FOBT – including reducing the maximum stake from £100 per spin to £2, which is the industry standard for similar machines.
And he also called for the spin cycle to be increased from 20 seconds to one minute to allow gamblers more time between plays to think about how much they are spending.
But the Association of British Bookmakers refute the suggestions in the CFG report, claiming the research is flawed.
A spokesman said the machines have a 97% pay-out rate, with the average player spending £10 per 20-minute session.
Mr Parkinson, who was involved in launching FOBTs and remained in the industry until 2008, said he saw first-hand the “crippling effect” the machines could have on players.
He said the figures were estimated using industry facts and figures, available from the Gambling Commission.
“For around eight years I managed these machines for a high street chain,” he told The Star.
“In that time I saw people developing addictions to the casino content on these machines. People were losing very fast because of the high-speed, high-stake capacity.
“People were losing their week’s or month’s wages in one sitting. Before they realised what was happening they were losing £200 to £300.”
Figures from the Gambling Commission show there were 35,662 machines in use in the UK last year, with £1,446.49m lost by gamblers nationwide.
“The high stakes and speed of play have led to the machines being called ‘the crack cocaine of gambling’,” said Mr Parkinson.
“These machines are highly addictive. In Ipswich there is an estimated £1m turnover per machine – that just shows how addictive they are.”
n Have you battled a gambling addiction? Tell us your story. Write to health reporter Lizzie Parry at Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org