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Are casino-style fruit machines too much of a gamble?

New figures have claimed that £49m was staked on fixed odds betting machines in Hyndburn last year. The borough has 47 high-speed ‘casino-style' machines, which can accept bets of up to £100 every 20 seconds.

GAMBLING: Casino-style fruit machines

New figures have claimed that £49m was staked on fixed odds betting machines in Hyndburn last year.

The borough has 47 high-speed ‘casino-style' machines, which can accept bets of up to £100 every 20 seconds.

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling said more than £1 million was staked on each of these machines in the past year, with bookies raking in more than £1.5 million profit. But bookies hit back, saying the figures were inaccurate and misleading.

Hyndburn MP Graham Jones, who has campaigned against the machines since last summer, is calling for them to be removed.

He said: “I find it absolutely shocking that you can wager £100 nearly every 20 seconds on these things. Vulnerable people and foolish people will get drawn into this. People with children or partners are spending their weekly shopping money and they have to suffer from their gambling habits.

“Nearly £50 million has been spent in Hyndburn alone. That is three-and-a-half times the amount the council spends on services and ten times what they collect in council tax.

“I would appeal to people in Hyndburn to stay away from these machines. It is one thing having responsible gambling but this isn’t.”

Mr Jones called on the Government to review the machines and reduce the maximum stake to £2.

Critics have labelled the machines the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ and said the machines are used more by people in poorer areas and those in unemployment and deprivation.

Adrian Parkinson, spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, said the only way to solve the problem is making the machines less profitable.

He said: “Fixed odds betting terminals are touch-screen roulette and casino gaming machines in betting shops, on which it is possible to stake up to £100 every 20 seconds. The high stakes and speed of play have led to the machines being called ‘the crack cocaine of gambling’.”

The Association of British Bookmakers labelled the figures ‘inaccurate’.

A spokesperson said: “The idea that bookmakers target vulnerable communities is both false and offensive.

“At a time of economic uncertainty and record retail vacancies, we are proud to play our part in supporting jobs right across the UK.”

A spokesman for Ladbrokes, which has a branch in the Accrington Arndale, said the data had been calculated on a “totally misleading basis” as no betting companies provide such localised data.

He added: “There are two types of games on these machines, which these figures are lumping together, one of which already has its maximum stake at £2.

“This is actually the fastest growing type of game. There is lots of evidence to show that people regulate their own spending.

“On our higher stake games, the average spend per session is only £6.91, while on the lower stake games it is £7.99, showing that stake limits do not necessarily affect total spend.”

William Hill, which has a branch on Blackburn Road in Accrington, said the figures quoted were turnover figures for a product which, on average, returns 97 per cent to the player.

A spokesman said:¿“While gaming machines in betting shops are profitable, the figures published by the so called Campaign for Fairer Gambling are misleading.

“The average spend per hour of a machine player is around £9.”

 
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