East Lancashire punters spent more than £270m on gambling machines in 2012 (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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East Lancashire punters spent more than £270m on gambling machines in 2012
10:54am Monday 14th January 2013 in News
MORE than £270million was staked on fixed odds betting machines in East Lancashire last year, it has been claimed.
And it has led to accus-ations that the terminals are the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’.
In Blackburn alone, £76million was gambled on 73 machines in 20 betting shops, according to the Campaign For Fairer Gambling.
They say gamblers in Darwen and Rossendale staked £41million, Hyndburn’s book-makers saw £49million gambled, Pendle £38million, and Ribble Valley £19million.
In Burnley, which has 66 shops, £49million was fed into 47 touch-screen roulette and casino gaming machines in 2012.
Hyndburn and Haslingden MP Graham Jones, who has spoken out over his concern that people can become addicted to the machines, said the figures proved that a review of the terminals was needed urgently.
Nationally the statistics revealed that more was gambled in areas of high unemployment and deprivation than in wealthier areas.
The figures were put together by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, a non-profit organisation which campaigns against problem betting, using statistics based on industry figures, surveys and work by Adrian Parkinson, who was involved with launching fixed odds betting terminals.
However the Association of British Bookmakers in response said the figures did not take into account sums paid out by the machines, which they say have a payout rate of up to 97 per cent.
Because of money returned in winnings by the machines, a total of £8.2million was lost by gamblers in East Lancashire.
Mr Jones said: “These figures provide further evidence that this review needs to take place urgently.
“When more than £270million is staked in East Lancashire alone it must look at stakes and speed of play.
“I also want to see betting shops put into their own planning use class to give local authorities more power over the number of betting shops and machines on our high streets.
“It is difficult to track the impact of these machines on problem gambling so I want the gambling industry to fund an annual independent survey that monitors gambling addiction across the industry.
“Ultimately I think these machines should be removed from the high street.”
Customers at a betting shop in Blackburn said they were shocked by the figures.
Joe McEwan said: “I usually just pop in for the odd flutter, but you do see people sticking a lot of money into the machines.
“To think so much cash is being thrown away just in Blackburn alone is incredible.”
Dom Toothill said: “There should be a limit really, as people can get into real problems gambling away so much money.
“Surely people don’t think they are actually going to get back what they put in?”
Nikki Hustings, a debt specialist for Lancashire West Citizens Advice Bureaux, said she had seen evidence that the machines could lead to problem gambling.
She said: “We’ve had several people seeking debt counselling who are drawn to these type of betting machines.
“I’ve seen more than one person bring in their bank statements and they’re making several trips to the cashpoint in one afternoon, withdrawing 10 and 20 pounds a time.
“They freely admit it’s to feed their habit with the betting shop machines.”
Mr Parkinson said: “It is possible to stake up to £100 every 20 seconds.
“The high stakes and speed of play have led to the machines being called ‘the crack cocaine of gambling’. Legislation limits each betting shop to four, so bookies leapfrog regulations by opening up as many shops as possible, which is why we get clustering, especially in poorer areas.
“We recommend reducing the maximum stake from £100 down to £2, increasing the time between plays, and removing table game content.”
A spokesman for the Association of British Bookmakers said: “The idea that bookmakers target vulnerable communities is both false and offensive.
“Like any other retailer, we locate our shops where footfall is high and rents are affordable. These factors vary, which explains there can be different numbers of shops in different parts of the country.
"At a time of economic uncertainty and record retail vacancies, we are proud to play our part in supporting jobs right across the UK."