BY LIZZIE PARRY
Thursday, February 14, 2013
A RECOVERING gambling addict has today called for betting shop casino machines – dubbed the “crack cocaine of gambling” – to be outlawed after it emerged punters in the town lost an estimated £2.3million playing them in one year.
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.
“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.”
In Tuesday’s Star the Campaign for Fairer Gambling warned of the dangers – estimating 73 in Ipswich netted an average profit of more than £32,000 each last year.
The report, which relates to the 2011/12 financial year, claims the turnover was a staggering £75m.
They said the high stakes, maximum £100 and short spin cycles of two seconds make the games highly addictive – a claim echoed by the recovering addict.
Consumed by his addiction, firmly held in its tight grasp, the 24-year-old frittered away £18,000 last year – more than half his salary.
The former addict, who is from the Ipswich area and asked not to be named, said he first played on fixed odds betting terminal (FOBT) machines, which offer games including roulette, bingo and simulated horse racing, when he was 19 years old.
“I was spending all the money I had access to on the machines,” he said.
“It was a couple of years before I admitted to myself that I had a problem.”
He said the 97% pay out rate makes the games “compelling”.
“You could walk in with £50 and walk out with £400 to £500 in a matter of minutes,” he added. “It is scary how addictive that can be. But in the same time you could lose the same amount.
“I lost about £18,000 last year – it feels terrible, really horrible to say that out loud.
“It is only in the last three months that I have realised I have a problem.
“I was finding everyday problems at work or home, any arguments I had with my mates and I was turning to the machines, spending hours down the bookies.
“If you win, you feel great and you play for longer, it is an emotional escape.”
He said one of the key problems is that whereas when you withdraw money from a hole in the wall there is a daily limit, he was able to buy vouchers worth £500 sometimes more than once, in one day.
“These machines need to be banned,” he added eight weeks after last succumbing to the temptation to play.
“I would get rid of them altogether.
“And I think, like with cigarettes, warnings should be displayed in all bookies with advice and support available to those who fear they might have a problem.”