January 7, 2013 : GBP 5.6 BILLION STAKED ON FOBTs BY UNEMPLOYED PUNTERS
Labour Party politicians claim poorest residential areas were targeted
British Labour Party politicians were up in arms this weekend over Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in High Street bookie shops, claiming that operators are targeting the poor and unemployed.
Always ready to embark on an anti-gambling story, the Daily Mail reported that GBP 5.6 billion was wagered on the machines by gamblers from areas with high unemployment.
Use of FOBTs is restricted to four per betting shop.
The FOBT machine population has grown from 16,380 machines in 2007 to 32,000 last year, the newspaper reported.
The casino-style terminals allow players to stake up to GBP 100 a time on a 20-second spin of a wheel for games such as virtual roulette.
The Mail claims that recent statistics show that punters from parts of Britain that have the highest levels of unemployment bet four times as much on the machines as those in more well-to-do areas.
In the 50 parliamentary constituencies with the highest levels of unemployment punters visited 1,251 betting shops and put GBP 5.6 billion into 4,454 high stakes machines last year, the newspaper claims.
By comparison, the 50 constituencies with the lowest levels of joblessness saw GBP 1.4 billion gambled at 287 betting shops on 1,045 machines.
Labour MP Dianne Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituency in North-East London) accused gambling companies of targeting poorer areas, whilst fellow Labour politician Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) said: "According to these figures, there’s more being spent on gambling in my constituency than by the council on services."
The figures used by the Mail were produced by the problem betting campaign group Fairer Gambling from an analysis of industry data.
The Daily Mail reports that according to published statistics, William Hill plc netted an estimated GBP 416 million a year profit from fixed-odds betting machines, while Ladbrokes made around GBP 359 million, Coral GBP 290 million and Paddy Power GBP 41 million.
Refuting the claims, the Association of British Bookmakers said: "The idea that bookmakers target vulnerable communities is both false and offensive.
"Like any other retailer, we locate our shops where footfall is high and rents are affordable.
"These factors vary, which explains why there can be different numbers of shops in different parts of the country."