web analytics

We should stack the odds against gambling

Liberalisation has gone too far. Fixed-odds betting terminals are fleecing deprived communities

This was nearly a decade ago when I was researching a book on gambling (an activity I have always enjoyed). I spoke to many gamblers, some extremely successful. Alan Woods, for example, a computer-driven horse-racing punter, won, on a conservative estimate, more than £400 million in a career in Hong Kong. It was the night in Hammersmith that stayed with me, though: the lies, the deceit, the destitution wrought upon the minority for whom gambling is destructive.

Historically, the pendulum of gambling legislation has always swung between liberty and constraint. Eventually the Betting and Gaming Act of 1960 legalised betting shops, establishing a happy medium whereby the Government recognised that prohibition was ineffective and undesirable, that gambling was a legitimate and not immoral pastime enjoyed by many, but also that it should not be encouraged unduly. This remained the sensible position for almost four decades.

Successive governments under John Major and Tony Blair, in keeping with the free-market attitudes of the time, further liberalised the industry. Having introduced the National Lottery in 1994, thereby sponsoring and profiting from gambling, no government could refuse the demands of an industry threatened by a rapid technological revolution, with the advent of the internet.

We should stack the odds against gambling

I was interested to see how this combination of the ease of access to gambling brought on by the internet combined with a much more laissez-faire attitude on behalf of the then Labour Government would play out. I suspected trouble. The fear in 2002, when Tessa Jowell posed as a croupier to publicise A Safe Bet for Success, the government response to the Gambling Review Report of 2001 chaired by the noted free-marketeer Sir Alan Budd, was that a wave of American-style and American-owned supercasinos would swamp the land.

That did not come to pass. What did — apart from a significant rise in the number of adults gambling (up by 8 per cent between 2007-10) and a small increase, on the margins of statistical relevance, in problem gamblers (up from 0.6 to 0.9 per cent of the population in the same period) — is an explosion of what might be called mini-casinos on the high street. Here the take from Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), some 33,000 of them, underpins the profits of the high street bookmakers at considerable human cost.

These machines are a misery. Not only have they changed the atmosphere of the high street betting shop from a convivial social club for those needing to kill time (and money) to a hang-out for dead-eyed addicts, they suck huge amounts of money from the most deprived communities — £13 billion is estimated to have been gambled on these machines in 55 of the most deprived boroughs in the country, with losses of £470 million.

GamCare, the gambling helpline, whose premises the last time I visited were situated, in delicious irony, just behind Guy’s and Thomas’ Hospital, which was built on the profits of an almighty gamble on the South Sea Bubble, recorded just over 16,000 calls for help between 2012-13. Of these 32 per cent concerned fixed-odds and roulette machines. With the ability to gamble £100 every 20 seconds or so on an FOBT, the potential dangers are unsurprising.

There are obvious specific areas upon which the Government can act. It could limit the amounts that can be gambled on these machines and reduce the speed of play. It could empower local councils to act in areas blighted by the prevalence of bookmakers who rely upon them for profit. After all, bookmaking has been a recession-proof business, more than doubling its floorspace on the high street since 2008.

This would mean taking on a powerful gambling lobby and forgoing money to the Treasury at a time of austerity. It would also mean a return to the notion that the Government is there to regulate gambling rather than to peddle and exploit it. Fixed Odds Betting Terminals would be a good place to start.

Mike Atherton is the author of Gambling: A Story of Triumph and Disaster

Comments (1,887)
  1. harden shoes April 18, 2017
  2. adidas tubular shadow April 19, 2017
    • maintenance companies nyc August 23, 2017
  3. yeezy boost April 19, 2017
  4. nike roshe run April 20, 2017
    • window price August 23, 2017
  5. yeezy boost 350 April 21, 2017
  6. pandora bracelet April 21, 2017
  7. yeezy boost 350 April 21, 2017
  8. yeezy boost April 22, 2017
  9. hogan outlet April 23, 2017
  10. timberland uk April 23, 2017
  11. yeezy boost 350 April 23, 2017
  12. michael kors outlet April 24, 2017
  13. yeezy shoes April 25, 2017
  14. cheap jordans April 25, 2017
  15. patriots jerseys April 26, 2017
  16. yeezy boost April 26, 2017
  17. lacoste April 26, 2017
  18. michael kors purses April 27, 2017
  19. nike roshe one April 27, 2017
  20. timberland boots April 28, 2017
  21. yeezy boost 350 April 29, 2017
  22. hermes belt April 29, 2017
  23. nike polo shirts April 29, 2017
  24. yeezy boost April 30, 2017
  25. lebron 13 April 30, 2017
  26. yeezy shoes May 1, 2017
  27. tory burch shoes May 1, 2017
  28. yeezy boost May 2, 2017
  29. nmd uk May 2, 2017
  30. air force 1 May 2, 2017
  31. lacoste polo shirts May 2, 2017
  32. yeezy boost May 3, 2017
  33. adidas stan smith May 3, 2017
  34. yeezy boost 350 May 3, 2017
  35. nike lebron 14 May 4, 2017
  36. chrome hearts online May 5, 2017
  37. links of london May 5, 2017
  38. yeezy boost May 5, 2017
  39. michael kors uk May 6, 2017
  40. jordan shoes May 6, 2017
  41. michael kors outlet May 7, 2017
  42. kobe shoes May 7, 2017
  43. longchamp outlet May 8, 2017
  44. yeezy boost May 8, 2017
  45. yeezy shoes May 9, 2017
  46. adidas stan smith May 9, 2017
  47. yeezy boost May 10, 2017
  48. michael kors May 10, 2017
  49. hermes belt May 10, 2017
  50. true religon uk May 11, 2017
  51. ultra boost May 11, 2017
  52. fitflops clearance May 11, 2017
  53. chrome hearts May 12, 2017
  54. kobe shoes May 13, 2017
  55. nike mercurial May 13, 2017
  56. michael kors outlet May 14, 2017
  57. longchamp handbags May 14, 2017
  58. yeezy boost May 15, 2017
  59. gucci sito ufficiale May 15, 2017
  60. ralph lauren outlet May 15, 2017
  61. ugg boots May 15, 2017
  62. nike shoes May 15, 2017
  63. montblanc pens May 15, 2017
  64. michael kors handbags May 16, 2017
  65. yeezy boost May 16, 2017
  66. coach outlet online May 16, 2017
  67. skechers outlet May 16, 2017
  68. houston texans jerseys May 16, 2017
  69. adidas nmd May 16, 2017
  70. longchamp May 16, 2017
  71. hermes belts for men May 17, 2017
  72. ugg outlet May 17, 2017
  73. lions jerseys May 17, 2017
  74. ugg boots May 17, 2017
  75. air jordan 4 May 17, 2017
  76. nike air force 1 May 17, 2017
  77. ray ban sunglasses May 17, 2017
  78. los angeles lakers May 17, 2017
  79. supra shoes May 17, 2017
  80. dolce and gabbana May 17, 2017
  81. longchamp outlet May 17, 2017
  82. oakley sunglasses May 18, 2017
  83. ralph lauren outlet May 18, 2017
  84. ravens jerseys May 18, 2017
  85. ugg boots May 18, 2017
  86. michael kors handbags May 18, 2017
  87. ugg outlet May 18, 2017
  88. michael kors handbags May 19, 2017
  89. michael kors outlet May 19, 2017
  90. louis vuitton pas cher May 19, 2017
  91. ugg outlet May 19, 2017
  92. jimmy choo shoes May 19, 2017
  93. ugg outlet May 20, 2017
  94. armani outlet May 20, 2017
  95. coach outlet online May 20, 2017
  96. coach outlet May 20, 2017
  97. kate spade handbags May 20, 2017
  98. coach factory outlet May 20, 2017
  99. air max 90 May 20, 2017
  100. toms outlet May 20, 2017
  101. oakley sunglasses May 21, 2017
  102. salvatore ferragamo May 21, 2017
  103. pandora charms May 21, 2017
  104. coach outlet May 21, 2017
  105. mbt shoes online May 21, 2017
  106. reebok outlet May 21, 2017
  107. ugg boots May 21, 2017
  108. pandora jewelry May 21, 2017
  109. chargers jerseys May 21, 2017
  110. coach outlet May 21, 2017
  111. gucci sito ufficiale May 21, 2017
  112. cheap basketball shoes May 22, 2017
  113. true religion jeans May 22, 2017
  114. hugo boss outlet May 22, 2017
  115. coach factory outlet May 22, 2017
  116. michael kors handbags May 23, 2017
  117. oakley sunglasses May 25, 2017
  118. polo ralph lauren May 25, 2017
  119. asics shoes May 26, 2017
  120. replica rolex May 28, 2017
  121. ray ban sunglasses May 28, 2017
  122. kyrie irving shoes May 29, 2017
  123. glam seamless review May 30, 2017
  124. Josefina May 30, 2017
  125. kyire irving shoes May 31, 2017
  126. important things May 31, 2017
  127. lace frontal June 1, 2017
  128. kezfmmrghx June 1, 2017
  129. lebron soldier 10 June 2, 2017
  130. stephen curry shoes June 2, 2017
  131. NMD Human Race June 3, 2017
  132. Tweezer Manufacturer June 3, 2017
  133. Air max pas cher June 3, 2017
  134. John Danks Jersey June 3, 2017
  135. Air max pas cher June 3, 2017
  136. card reader June 3, 2017
  137. computer memory holder June 4, 2017
  138. travel to canada June 5, 2017