Gambling addiction has become a major problem here in the UK, with many people being affected. The rise in online gambling websites and the accessibility of the internet through smartphones and other mobile devices has made it much easier for individuals to gamble in secret, and many young people are developing crippling habits that are destroying their lives. However, it would appear that gambling addiction is not just affecting those who gamble online. In fact, reports show that there is one type of gambling machine in betting shops that is responsible for more than ninety-six per cent of losses greater than £1,000. That machine is the fixed odds betting terminal (FOBT).
FOBTs have been dubbed the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ or the ‘hardcore form of gambling’ and have been linked to the development of gambling addictions among betting shop punters. These machines allow gamblers to stake up to £100 per spin, and because they can spin up to three times in just one minute, those who use them can lose thousands of pounds in a very short space of time.
The trade association for amusement and arcade gaming machines BACTA has highlighted the fact that FOBTs can cause addiction and have said that these machines are regularly causing physical violence among betting shop customers.
The Gambling Commission released figures showing that there are more than 230,000 gambling sessions a year involving FOBTs where customers lose more than £1,000. Around 650 of those result in losses higher than £5,000. Unsurprisingly, in 2014, there was a fifty-one per cent increase in the number of police call-outs to betting shops around the country.
Many believe the high stakes accepted by FOBTs are that which makes them so addictive. With punters capable of losing up to £100 per spin, it is not uncommon for people to begin chasing their losses. With most other gaming machines having a maximum stake of £2, FOBTs have been marked as a ‘significant anomaly’ when it comes to high street gaming machines.
Due to the destruction and chaos linked to FOBTs, campaigners are once again calling on the Government to do something to protect vulnerable people with gambling addictions. BACTA chief executive John White is hoping to highlight the issues caused by gambling addiction. He is spearheading a campaign to show the social and financial destruction it can cause.
Jason Frost, BACTA president, said, “Fixed odds betting terminals are a hardcore form of gambling, entirely unsuitable for everyday high street venues. With stake limits at £100, fifty times that of any other widely available gaming machine, they allow consumers and at-risk gamblers to rack up huge losses.”
He went on to say, “As the Gambling Commission’s figures show, the vast majority of everyday punters who are making major losses are doing so at these addictive betting shop machines at higher stakes. They endanger consumers, foster a culture of violence and aggression, and undermine the whole amusement industry’s work to create a socially responsible environment for gaming that puts player protection first. We urge DCMS to do the right and necessary thing and order a substantial reduction in FOBT stakes.”
Despite having previously resisted calls to reduce FOBT maximum stakes, the Government has said it planned to review gambling machine levels and announced in October 2016 that a new review was to take place that would specifically focus on the FOBT maximum stake. However, with fierce opposition from the Association of British Bookmakers, plans to reduce these stakes could be hampered. They believe that there is no evidence to link problem gambling with FOBTs.
However, those struggling every day with a gambling addiction may just disagree.
Source: Single machine blamed for 96% of gambling addicts’ major losses (News Shopper)