Addictive gambling machines have contributed to the number of “problem gamblers” soaring to nearly half a million, according to a man who lost £16,000 on the terminals.
Writing in The Guardian, Matt Zarb-Cousin used his own experiences of becoming hooked on “fixed-odds betting” machines to highlight the need for spending limits.
There are 32,000 high-stake betting terminals installed in bookmakers across the country. They allow gamblers to stake £100 a spin and up to £18,000 an hour.
These machines have been branded the “crack cocaine” of gambling, and Mr Zarb-Cousin is concerned more will become addicted unless the Government intervene.
Close to 1% of the population, 451,000, are addicted to gambling, an increase of 150,000 since 2007, according to a national survey.
Mr Zarb-Cousin pointed out that there is just one NHS clinic in the country which deals with problem gamblers.
A select committee actually recommended lifting the cap on the number of these machines allowed per shop.
The Government is due to respond to these recommendations later this month.
Don Foster, Liberal Democrat communities minister, wants a spending restriction of £2 a spin, the same as limits at bingo halls and casinos.
He said there is no doubt these machines are “ruining people’s lives.”The British gambling industry generates a profit of £5.6 billion a year.