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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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£56m: shock gambling figures revealed

MORE than £56million was wagered in Copeland in a single year on betting machines deemed the “crack cocaine of gambling”, shock figures reveal.

The Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) are touch-screen roulette and casino gambling machines, based in betting shops, on which it is possible to stake up to £100 every 20 seconds.

Statistics produced by the Fairer Gambling Organisation and betting industry data show Copeland has 55 FOBTs on which a total of £56,884,100 was gambled in 2011.

Adrian Parkinson, a consultant for Fairer Gambling Organisation, said: “The high stakes and speed of play have led to the machines being called ‘the crack cocaine of gambling’.’’

The organisation says the machines – which makes up 50 percent of the profits for betting shops – make the most money within poorer areas of the country.

Analysed by Geofutures, the figures reveal that of the top 50 unemployment blackspots, the profit from the terminals was more than £173million last year. By comparison, in the 50 constituencies with the lowest levels of unemployment, the bookies made just £44million.

In contrast to Copeland, statistics for the Workington constituency show it has 11 FOBTs with £11,376,820 gambled on the machines.

Mr Parkinson said: “We believe the only way to stop machine-driven proliferation of betting shops is to make the machines less profitable. So we recommend reducing the maximum stake from £100 down to £2, increasing the time between plays, and removing table game content.’’

Richard Mottram, of Cumbria Counselling Group, said statistics revealed there was around 470 problem gamblers in Copeland.

“I have dealt with clients who aren’t yet in debt but are worried they are spending too much, to those who are hundreds of thousands of pounds in debt,’’ he said.

Gambling provides a “release’’ for people, he said. “It is exciting and it is what people turn to when they feel helpless and down.”

Over the past 12 months, the group had seen 53 new clients in Copeland and Allerdale. “We expect to see more problems with the internet and mobile phone gambling because they’re so much more available,’’ Richard said.

“Younger people are more prone to this and students are particularly vulnerable. That’s because they’re usually managing money for the first time; they’re already in debt through the loan system; they’ve access to the right technology; and they may encounter peers claiming to have gambled successfully.”

But he added: “It is never too late to get help, to turn a corner.’’

Commenting on the claims by the Fairer Gambling Organisation, The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) said the idea that bookmakers targeted vulnerable communities was “false and offensive”.

In a statement it said: “Like any other retailer, we locate our shops where footfall is high and rents are affordable.

“Betting shops have been located on our nation’s high streets ever since off-course betting was first made legal in 1961. The betting industry would welcome an evidence based debate, but the research presented is misleading.

“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.’’

A Millom church leader has also called for more support to help gambling addicts.

Pastor Fred McKeown, who was addicted to both gambling and alcohol until finding faith at 22, is offering his personal support to anyone with a gambling addiction and hopes a gamblers anonymous service can be set up for Millom and the surrounding area.

“I know what it’s like to gamble your entire wages away and have to go without because of the addiction,’’ he said. “There is a great influx of ways and easiness to be able to gamble, more than ever before.

“And as someone who knows the effects and struggles of this addiction I believe there will be more people, because of the financial crisis, who are turning to other measures, like putting money in a slot machine or in an online casino.”

Mr McKeown said he had seen first-hand how these machines can affect people on a low income. “If there had been the ease that there is now, I would have found it far more difficult to kick the addiction,’’ he said. “At 14 I started skipping school and going in to a bookies and gambling every day of the week.”

Anyone who would like support for their gambling addiction, can contact Pastor Fred McKeown at Millom Network Centre on 01229 719659.

And for further information from the Cumbria Counselling Group go to www.thecumbriacounselling group.co.uk or telephone 01946 820230.

If you have a gambling story to share with The Whitehaven News email news.wn@cnmedia.co.uk

Have your say

As a financial advisor, I think you will find that investing in guaranteed equity bonds, you will of had the full key features document and specifics of the product explained. It seems that some people are quick to jump on financial advisors when their personal choices go wrong. So many people make money and have regular guidance and advice from us and unfortunately all we get is bad comments.

Posted by Tigerlilly on 23 January 2013 at 22:12

You've got your beloved Labour Government to thank for the deregulation of gambling.

Posted by Gamblor on 20 January 2013 at 17:09

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