£190m: That's how much Bolton punters spent on fixed odds betting machines last year
9:10am Friday 18th January 2013 in Local
BOLTON gamblers spent almost £190 million on fixed odds betting machines last year, a campaign group has claimed.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling says it is concerned about the amount being staked on the machines in some of the most deprived areas of Bolton.
Now the government is launching a review of the machines as it consults people about their maximum stake and prize limits.
The figures are split into parliamentary constituency areas, and the most cash was spent in Bolton South East, which includes Farnworth, Great Lever and Kearsley, with £94,806,833 being fed into 91 machines.
A fixed odds betting machine or terminal (FOBT), is a touch-screen machine with a variety of different games, but the most popular is roulette.
The time between spins on roulette is about 20 seconds, and it is possible to bet up to £100 each time.
They were first introduced to high street bookmakers in 2001, but are also available in casinos.
Each bookmakers is allowed a maximum of four machines in each shop.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling, a non-profit organisation, advocates a reduction in the maximum stake from £100 to £2; an increase in the time between spins; the removal of casino content; and a reduction from four per shop to one.
Adrian Parkinson, who conducted the research for the group, said: “It is the roulette element of the machines which make them highly addictive.
“Each machine gives the illusion of control for the user but they don’t feel the cash value of their winnings.
“The only suitable place for these machines is in a casino and not on the high street.”
Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi, who is supporting the campaign, accused bookmakers of exploiting deprived areas like Farnworth.
Ms Qureshi said: "I’m very concerned by the large number of FOBTs in my constituency and the amount of money gambled on them.
“The national figures appear to show that bookmakers are deliberately targeting poorer areas with the highest levels of deprivation — areas where people simply cannot afford to lose this money.”
Barry Lyon, chief executive of Bolton’s Citizen’s Advice Bureau, said he was also concerned about the machines.
He said: “Any form of gambling can lead to further debt problems — that is nothing new.
“But it is frightening how much money people can lose on these machines so quickly.
“There is potentially a massive amount of money stake for people.”
A Bolton gambler, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “I used to play on the machines but I started to lose a lot of money so now I just bet on the horses and football.
“The thing is, you can walk away with hundreds, even thousands, but most people just get nothing from those machines.
"The betting shops make loads of money from them — I don’t believe it’s 97 per cent pay out for the customer. That’s a load of rubbish.
“I’ve seen people kicking, shouting and crying at the machines when they’ve lost.
"That’s really common in the shops round here. It’s a mug’s game really.”
But the Association of British Bookmakers said the figures failed to take into account the machines’ 97 per cent pay-out rate.
This means Bolton gamblers will have lost more than £5.5million on the machines last year — £5,688,410 is the 3 per cent not paid out.
A spokesman for the association 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.”
Ladbrokes spokesman Kieran O’Brian said the figures were misleading.
“It’s an average based on stakes rather than spending. Plus the return on these machines is almost 100 per cent so it offers very good value.”
The government launched a review on Tuesday and is calling for gamblers and industry insiders to take part online.
A Betfred spokesman said the company welcomed the opportunity to enter into “an educated and balanced debate” on the subject.
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