Former gambling addict welcomes new betting restrictions - but says it is ‘too late’ for him
PUBLISHED: 17:17 17 May 2018 | UPDATED: 20:06 17 May 2018
ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434
A former gambling addict from Norwich has welcomed new restrictions on fixed odds betting terminals - but says it has come too late for him.
David Armstrong, 71, said his addiction to the high-speed electronic casino games cost him his job, his home and almost his life.
The former garage owner claims to have lost £350,000 in ten years - including £15,000 in one afternoon on the betting machines.
He has now welcomed government plans to reduce the maximum stake on the terminals from £100 per spin to £2.
“It is wonderful news for future victims,” Mr Armstrong said. “But it is too late for me and hundreds of other people.
“I think the government has dragged its feet for a long time over this issue.”
Currently, people can bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on the machines.
They have been described as a “social blight” by culture secretary Matt Hancock.
Mr Armstrong said while he was managing to stay away from the machines, the “pathological urge” to use them was still with him.
He said he had never gambled until around 11 years ago when he was tempted into a betting shop in Anglia Square.
“I started going in once or twice a week,” he said. “And then it just went manic.”
He said he sought help after gambling away £15,000 in one afternoon in 2010 by betting £100 per spin.
Despite banning himself from every betting shop in East Anglia, it was not enough.
In 2014 - having lost everything he owned - he borrowed £50 and took a bus trip to the one gambling shop he still had access to in Colchester. Hours later, he attempted to end his life by jumping off a bridge into a river.
Mr Armstrong, who likened a gambling addiction to crack cocaine, said he is now having to sofa surf, as he has no permanent accommodation. Despite this, he said he commutes every day to Lowestoft to work at a garage.
Fixed odds betting terminals generate £1.8bn in revenue a year for the betting industry, according to the Gambling Commission.
Mr Hancock said: “These machines are a social blight and prey on some of the most vulnerable in society, and we are determined to put a stop to it and build a fairer society for all.”
Green Party councillor Martin Schmierer, who represents Mancroft ward on Norwich City Council, said: “I am delighted that the government has listened to experts who for many years now have been saying that these machines are a real blight on our society and are disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable in cities such as Norwich. It is just a shame that it has taken the government so long to come to this conclusion. I hope that this will be the start of a more concerted effort by the government to tackle the problems associated with gambling addictions.”
He added: “I am confident that this decision will improve the lives of those living in the area I represent, which has some of the highest levels of deprivation in Norwich but also seems to have the highest number of bookmakers and gambling outlets in the city.”