Betting shops are targeting areas of highest unemployment and lowest income levels, as profits from high-stake gambling machines increase, a new report shows.
The poorest quarter of England’s population wagered more than £13bn on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in 2013, which is double the amount gambled in the richest areas, according to figures produced by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling.
The report shows that in the 55 most deprived boroughs of the country, there were 2,691 betting shops on the high streets.
In contrast, there were 1,258 bookmakers in shopping centres in the 115 richest areas, containing the same number of people.
In Liverpool, the most deprived council, £636m was staked on 570 FOBTs – dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling – and the betting shops took £23m in profit.
Nick Small, who represents Liverpool city centre, said the situation is “out of control”.
“Bookies are arriving all the time into prime retail locations. This is all driven for FOBTs. I have no doubt of it.
“We are seeing horrific reports of family breakdown caused by gambling debts, problems with loan sharks. We are pretty sure organised crime is using the machines to launder money.”
The report also shows that the 33,000 FOBTs across the UK produced gross profits of £1.6bn last year.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling’s report was presented to Parliament yesterday.
Last week, the campaign criticised the gambling industry over its new code of conduct for FOBT users, saying it hides the real problems.
Under measures from the Association of British Bookmakers, customers will be able to set their own time and money limits for using the high-stake machines.
The Government gave a partial welcome to the move but said the changes “must be made mandatory” across all bookmakers.
Ministers have said they will wait until the conclusion of gambling industry-funded research into FOBTs before considering lowering the maximum stake from £100.
And according to the Guardian newspaper, a source revealed that the Prime Minister has put off making a decision until later this year.