December 31, 2012 : FIXED ODDS BETTING MACHINES UNDER ATTACK AGAIN
High profile politician accuses operators of "preying on the vulnerable.”
Controversial UK politician and MP, George Galloway of the Respect Party, has accused Fixed Odds Betting Terminal operators of deliberately preying on the vulnerable after a study showed that almost GBP 393 million was gambled on the gaming machines in the Bradford area alone in the space of just one year.
A report released to the Bradford Telegraph and Argus by the Fairer Gambling organisation reveals there are 371 so-called FOBTs situated in 102 betting shops in Bradford and surrounding constituencies.
The highest figures, in the Bradford West constituency, prompted Galloway to opine that bookmakers were “shrewd operators” who deliberately preyed on the vulnerable.
“They know their territories and Bradford West is targeted because it is one of the most deprived constituencies in the area where people in poverty are so vulnerable that as austerity worsens they are spending more money in desperation on these machines seeking to get as much relief as they can,” Galloway claimed.
Bradford East MP David Ward of the Liberal Democrats said figures from his constituency were “staggering” and he was concerned that it seemed to be the people who can least afford to lose money who are gambling it.
“These people are extra vulnerable, in dire circumstances and desperate for extra cash. I think there are times when there should be some restraint by bookmakers, like pub landlords when they refuse to serve someone who has already drunk too much. But I can’t see that happening because for bookmakers these people are easy-money,” he said.
Bradford South Labour MP Gerry Sutcliffe said he was concerned by the figures but was waiting to see what hard evidence would surface from an 18-month study being commissioned by the Responsibility In Gaming Trust , of which he is an independent member.
“I’m obviously concerned about these machines but I want to see the exact impact they are having in scientific detail,” he told the newspaper.
Shipley MP Philip Davies differed, saying: “It’s up to people to do with their money as they see fit and the rate of return from these machines is higher than any other form of gambling. No one wants to see people getting addicted but people can sit in front of their computer 24 hours seven days a week and gamble. I’d say it’s better for them to be in a betting shop in a controlled environment where staff are trained to keep an eye for tell-tale signs.”
His view was echoed by Keighley Conservative MP Kris Hopkins, who told the Bradford Telegraph that it was up to individuals how they spend their own money, although he added the caveat: “They should take responsibility for making sure basics are put on their families’ tables first before feeding gaming machines.”
Fairer Gaming, which calculated the Bradford exposure from published industry statistics, said that the profit made by operators on the almost GBP393 million wagered was just over GBP 12 million.
"According to a report commissioned for the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), that type of fixed odds machine gives a much higher return of stakes than other forms of betting – meaning between 97 and 98 per cent of money gambled is given back," the newspaper reported.
"Under existing regulations, bookies are limited to four such machines per shop, which has led to ‘clustering’ of shops in some high streets. The machines can accept stakes of up to GBP100 and offer prizes of GBP500, offering casino games such as roulette.
Adrian Parkinson, speaking for Fairer Gambling, said: “Our organisation campaigns for tighter restrictions on FOBTs…and we are involved in parliamentary lobbying on this issue and that of betting shop proliferation.”
Parkinson is the former regional machines manager responsible for the introduction of FOBTs onto the high street from 1999 onwards. He was involved in the testing of roulette game content and worked closely with the two major suppliers. He said: “I have used my industry background and knowledge to produce the figures – they are derived from the Gambling Commission Industry Data.”