Gamblers reported to have lost £4.5m on fixed odds betting terminals in Ipswich last year
Ipswich’s newly elected MP has called for restrictions on the so-called “crack cocaine” of gambling after figures indicated more than £4.5m was lost on the machines last year in the town.
Labour’s Sandy Martin backed his party’s election manifesto pledge to reduce the maximum stake that can be placed on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in response to the figures.
Bacta, the trade association for the amusement and arcade gaming industry, shared Landman Economics’ data to highlight the alleged dangers of FOBTs.
People can spend £100 every 20 seconds on FOBTs, leading some to suffer huge losses in what campaigners call the “crack cocaine” of gambling.
Bacta and the Campaign for Fairer Gambling want the Government to reduce the maximum stake to £2 a spin.
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Labour and Liberal Democrats pledged to lower the maximum stake in their manifestos.
Mr Martin, who took the Ipswich seat to become Suffolk’s only Labour MP, said he was “fully in support” of the manifesto commitment. “I think we also need, as a society, to put more effort into helping people who are addicted to gambling,” he added.
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In Ipswich, where there are reported to be 88 FOBT machines, the losses were calculated as £4,589,571 last year - and £31,093,698 between 2008-16. John White, bacta CEO, said: “These figures underline the damaging impact of high-stakes FOBTs, right across the UK. The only way to protect consumers is through a substantial reduction to the £100 stake limit.”
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling added: “These figures reveal the shocking scale of the havoc FOBTs are causing on Britain’s high streets.”
However, the Association of British Bookmakers, which has defended FOBTs, accused bacta of “hypocrisy”, claiming it had sought to increase stakes on slot machines in arcades and pubs.
“They should get their own house in order and, like betting shops, enable customers to set limits, ban ATMs on site and employ trained staff to help stop people getting into difficulty,” a spokesman added.
Ipswich Borough Council confirmed there are 29 betting offices in the town. A spokesman said its policy sought to prevent gambling being a source of crime or disorder, ensure it is conducted in a fair and open way, and protect people from being harmed.