Thousands losing more than £1,000 a year on fixed odds betting terminals in Norwich

MP Simon Wright MP Simon Wright

Thursday, March 6, 2014
10:03 AM

The stark financial impact of machines dubbed the “crack cocaine” of gambling has been laid bare in a report suggesting thousands of gamblers are losing more than £1,000 a year - with many losing much more.

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Amounts being lost

Great Yarmouth: 3,252 people lost an average £721

Norwich: 4,476 lost an average £1,015

Fenland: 3,180 lost an average £92

Waveney: 3,872 lost an average £644

West Norfolk: 4,976 lost an average £412

North Norfolk: 3,524 lost an average £291

Breckland: 4,364 lost an average £470

Suffolk Coastal: 4,156 lost an average £353

South Norfolk: 4,120 lost an average £249

Broadland: 4,204 lost an average £139

MP Simon Wright, who has been calling for reform, said the “disturbing” figures from the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, came with plenty of evidence about the harm caused by addictive gambling through fixed odds betting terminals. Campaigners are calling for the stake on the machine, which currently allows people to bet £100 every 20 seconds, to be reduced to £2.

The figures estimate 3,610 people lose £1,015 on average in a year in Norwich - more than £4.5 million in total in just the city. Gambling charities suggest the impact of machines is much more widespread than just those who are addicted, with studies showing that for each problem gambler, between five and 15 members of their family and friends are affected, either through their financial losses or the destructive behaviour that is the product of their addiction.

The estimated figures for the number of people affected have been complied by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, using the latest Gambling Commission annual report, census data and measures of deprivation.

Ron Turrell, a GamCare councillor at East Anglian addiction charity Phoenix + Norcas, said that while he only saw a tiny fraction of the gamblers out there, a high proportion of those he helped were addicted to fixed odds betting terminals, with many losing thousands of pounds.

“It very much depends on the person’s ability to obtain money to gamble on the machines. I hear stories of people losing literally thousands of pounds on it, so that average sounds a bit on the low side I would have thought.”

Mr Wright said: “While these figures are estimates, they are nonetheless disturbing. The average FOBT player in Norwich has an estimated loss of over £1,000 a year, suggesting that the city could be one of the worst parts of the region to be a player of these machines.

“There is plenty of evidence from gamblers themselves about the harm caused by addictive gambling through fixed odds betting terminals. In parliament, I’ve called on ministers to make sure that the experiences of gamblers are taken into account as part of the review that we’re expecting to report back this spring. “I support a precautionary approach, including reducing the maximum stakes on terminals from £100 to £2 as suggested by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling. This would help to prevent the real harm that’s being caused.”

But the party has accused the gambling industry of exploiting those changes to target poorer parts of the country, The government has said the growth of the machines is “concerning” and culture minister Helen Grant expects the industry to introduce voluntary player protection measures, such as suspensions in play and automatic alerts when stakes hit a certain level, by March.

The gambling industry says it has introduced a code of conduct for player protection and responsible gaming. In a response to a debate earlier this year on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, the Association of British Bookmakers said: “We accept there are concerns about these gaming machines and are always open to a constructive dialogue with politicians about the appropriate powers for local authorities.”

CASE STUDY

Gambling addict David Armstrong banned himself from every betting shop in Norwich and East Anglia in 2012, after he lost £100,000 in four years on the controversial fixed odds betting terminals.

Mr Armstrong said at the time that the addiction had cost him his partner and he had amassed huge debts that he paid off by raising money on the equity of his house.

The retired car salesman said his addiction to the machines had “ruined” his life and warned other vulnerable people, especially youngsters, that what starts off as a little fun can easily turn into an out-of-control monster.

He had never gambled until four years before he banned himself two years ago.

He went into a bookmakers in Anglia Square in Norwich, and during the next year he started to spend an hour every evening on the machines and soon became addicted.

He tried counselling, hypnosis and finally self-excluded

himself from all Norwich betting shops, but would still travel to other towns in East Anglia to play.

Finally, he banned himself

from all betting shops in the region.

8 comments

  • Some evidence too that Fixed Odds Betting Terminals are being used for money laundering purposes and can "clean" dirty money,at a small loss,and then even pay the new cash into the customers' bank account.Beats HSBC any day of the week-they got caught.

    Report this comment

    Peter Watson

    Thursday, March 6, 2014

  • Extemely worrying as any figures showing excessive and harmful gambling are, we should still be very cautious about accepting such estimates which are derived by extrapolation.

    Report this comment

    JCW

    Thursday, March 6, 2014

  • It was Mr Blair's ambition to build a super casino on every high street in the country.

    Report this comment

    Steely Dan

    Thursday, March 6, 2014

  • Extemely worrying as any figures showing excessive and harmful gambling are, we should still be very cautious about accepting such estimates which are derived by extrapolation.

    Report this comment

    JCW

    Thursday, March 6, 2014

  • ".....It is mainly people who can ill afford to who play these machines. Which as Norfolk John says are people on benefits...." . How can that be true when according to you trolls they spend all their time lazing at home watching Sky on massive TVs , playing with their top of the range ipads , and going to the food bank to fill up their 4X4 with free food. How do they fit it all into the schedule ?

    Report this comment

    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Thursday, March 6, 2014

  • @ Larson - You need to get out more and smell the coffee. It is mainly people who can ill afford to who play these machines. Which as Norfolk John says are people on benefits. They think that they can improve their lot in life by gambling. A fool and their money are soon parted.

    Report this comment

    BG

    Thursday, March 6, 2014

  • I can't afford to so I don't. Looks like another MP looking for ways to get his her name in the public eye before an election. It's bad enough paying a mortgage and all the associated bills with running a household. Anything left over after that? You must be joking!

    Report this comment

    RoadWarrior

    Thursday, March 6, 2014

  • That'a a lot of benefit to lose - thank goodness for food banks!

    Report this comment

    Norfolk John

    Monday, March 10, 2014

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