Controversial Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) have caused a sharp rise in violence in and around bookmakers over the last year.
Gamblers are being enraged by the machines, known as the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’, which allow them to lose up to £100 every 20 seconds.
Campaigners have called on the Government to lower the maximum stake on FOBTs to alleviate the damage they cause.
Figures from the Metropolitan Police, obtained by The Sun on Sunday under Freedom of Information laws, show that there were 613 cases of violence and assault linked to bookmakers last year.
The number of incidents has risen by more than 100 compared to last year. In addition, police in London were called to 700 incidents of criminal damage in or around betting shops.
Overall, the number of ‘betting rage’ incidents in London last year amounted to over 1,300.
It’s extremely alarming such incidents are rising. FOBTs are socially destructive.Dan Boucher, CARE
A 31-year-old man in West Yorkshire, who lost £30,000 in a month, was given 200 hours of community service after vandalising two bookmakers.
And a 38-year-old man is said to have flown into a “betting rage” and smashed five FOBTs after he lost £1,000.
His solicitor said the amounts being wagered are “phenomenal” and added that the bookies “know they are the cocaine of gambling”, with people “losing vast amounts of money which they can’t afford to lose”.
Dan Boucher, spokesman for campaign group CARE, said: “It’s extremely alarming such incidents are rising. FOBTs are socially destructive.”
Earlier this year, Dr Boucher welcomed a bid by Lord Clement-Jones to reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2, saying this was: “The best way to address the problem”.
However, the Government rejected the bid claiming that it has already introduced “stronger gambling controls to further protect players and promote responsible gambling”.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling also supports a lower maximum stake, arguing that it would limit addiction and reduce violence.
FOBTs are estimated to be worth up to £1.6 billion a year to bookmakers.