Call to get rid of '˜killer' gambling machines as punters lose millions

CALLS have been made to get rid of machines dubbed the '˜crack cocaine' of gambling.

Friday, 5th August 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 5th August 2016, 4:10 pm
Millions is being lost on fixed odds betting terminals

It comes as new figures published by Stop the FOBTs estimate £61.7m was poured into 231 machines in Portsmouth, Fareham, Havant and Gosport in the 12 months to September 2015.

Campaigners say £12.34m was lost on FOBTs. In total £331.8m was gambled, which includes games played using winnings from original stakes.

Councillor Julie Swan, licensing chairwoman at Portsmouth City Council, said her board will look into gambling problems.

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She said: ‘I would like to see FOBTs removed. I don’t think they have a place. As far as I can see, FOBTs are literally a way of taking your money. They entice you to put in for no reward.

‘If you’re looking at horses running or dogs you can physically see and make a judgement whether that particular animal is going to be fast.

‘With FOBT there’s nothing, no way of making a judgement, it’s pure luck.’

Gamblers can place stakes up to £100 every 20 seconds on the machines, with no limit on how many times they can play, meaning thousands can be lost.

Former gambling industry insider Adrian Parkinson, who introduced the machines in the UK but now campaigns against them, wants a limit on stakes.

He told The News: ‘There’s no logical explanation from any government minister or government why we’ve allowed £100 stakes in places that are supposed to have softer betting.’

He wants the individual stake maximum to be cut down to just £2.

Firms in the industry hotly contest the figures published by Stop the FOBTs.

But people working with addicts have told of the devastating effects.

Compulsive gambler John, who asked The News not to use his full name, runs Gamblers Anonymous in Havant.

He said more than half of all people attending Gamblers’ Anonymous meetings in the area have been hooked by fixed odds betting terminal machines.

‘These seem to be the killers for people coming through the doors,’ he added.

‘This is instant, you can just lose hundreds and hundreds of pounds.

‘You put a bit on a horse race or dog race, while you’re waiting for them to load in the stalls or traps you can lose £1,000 on the FOBT – they’re dangerous.’

Violence has also been linked to the machines, with Derek Webb, also from Stop the FOBTs, telling MPs last month that British bookies are among the ‘most ­dangerous legalised gambling venues in the developed world’.

Flick Drummond, Portsmouth South MP, said: ‘Gambling can damage lives.’

She added: ‘I would urge people not to waste their money on these machines.’

Cllr Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham’s council, supports the campaign.

He said: ‘We’ve lobbied to have these stakes reduced and indeed the speed at which you can pump money in.

‘They’re getting a great rush from pumping more and more money, very often it’s money they can ill-afford.’

But Cllr Mark Hook, leader of Gosport’s council added: ‘It’s up to the individual but there will be those who are chasing the pound.’

Nickii Humphreys, licensing manager at Portsmouth City Council, said no-one had complained about FOBTs but the council is working on a draft statement of licensing principles this year.

David Williams, from Ladbrokes, said the group’s figures were wrong.

He added: ‘Many customers enjoy using them as part of the betting shop experience and we take the issue of responsible gambling seriously.’

Bookmakers are allowed to have a maximum of four FOBTs in each branch. Most have the maximum. Takings from the terminals are seen as a major driver for bookies’ growing profits.

Stop the FOBTs’ figures are based on published profits from the main betting firms.

The group then calculates how much is spent per area based on betting shops and number of terminals.