Betting shops in Northern Ireland are overwhelmingly concentrated in deprived areas, new statistics have revealed.
Data compiled by the Christian charity CARE shows that over a third of betting shops are in the most deprived ten per cent of council wards.
And over 80 per cent of betting shops were found to be in the most deprived 50 per cent of council wards in the Province.
The research also found that not a single betting shop was located in the most privileged ten per cent of council wards.
Mark Baillie, Public Affairs Officer for CARE in Northern Ireland, said: “Our research picks up a disturbing trend in the distribution of betting shops in Northern Ireland, similar to that exposed in the rest of the UK.”
Baillie added: “The big operators seem to be targeting poorer people in order to extract as much profit as possible from the communities that will feel it the most.”
Professor Jim Orford, from Gambling Watch UK, commented: “The betting companies will protest that they do not target poorer areas but I find that disingenuous.
“They may not explicitly target poorer communities but they surely carry out market research which tells them in which social-demographic categories their most profitable customers are likely to be found.”
He advised governments to “face up to the fact that the unequal distribution of betting shops results in large transfers of money from poorer areas into the pockets of people who most likely live elsewhere”.
Earlier this month the Independent on Sunday reported that amusement arcades are being converted into betting shops in order for highly addictive gambling machines to be installed
The fixed-odds betting terminals allow gamblers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds and have been dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling.
In the same week, Britain’s leading bookmakers agreed to advertise less aggressively in order to protect younger viewers.
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.
However, the move was criticised by campaign groups and the Daily Mail. The newspaper said “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”