Amusement arcades are being converted into betting shops in order for highly addictive gambling machines to be installed, The Independent on Sunday has reported.
The fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) allow gamblers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds and have been dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling.
A Gambling Commission report earlier this month found that half of adult gaming centres (AGCs) allowed people under the age of 18 to use their machines without challenging them to prove their age.
Emails seen by The Independent on Sunday revealed that the arcade industry is already converting arcades in order to use FOBTs.
In Watford, part of an arcade owned by gaming firm Praesepe is being converted into a betting shop, allowing it to apply for licences for up to four FOBTs.
Praesepe is the country’s fastest growing AGC operator, with 159 premises across the UK.
The news comes in the same week that Britain’s leading bookmakers agreed to advertise less aggressively in order to protect the younger audience.
William Hill, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and Coral promised not to advertise sign-up deals which offer free bets and free credit before the 9pm watershed.
They have also agreed not to advertise gaming machines from their betting shop windows.
However the move has been criticised by campaign groups and the Daily Mail. The newspaper described the agreement as a “charm offensive” which is intended to “head off tougher laws” on gambling.
“But it’s not the adverts that tear families apart. It’s the machines themselves on which the vulnerable can bet and lose £100 a minute” it said.
The editorial also urged MPs to “waste not a moment in legislating to rid society of this curse”.
Earlier this year the Government announced new regulations to curb high-stake betting machines, including giving more powers to local authorities to stop the spread of bookmakers.
But critics said the measures were a “missed opportunity” and failed to protect problem gamblers.