People in the poorest parts of Scotland staked almost double the amount on addictive gambling machines than those in wealthy areas, worrying new figures reveal.
“The figures back up the view that people in poorer areas are being targeted”, said one local MP.
Figures revealed that in the nine most deprived council areas of Scotland, £2 billion was wagered on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) last year by gamblers in 471 bookmakers. A total of £69 million was lost by gamblers.
In contrast, people in the eleven least deprived council areas of Scotland bet £1.1 billion and lost £40 million in 272 bookmakers.
The astounding figures were produced by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling using industry data.
“Bookmakers claim betting shops in less deprived areas are eight times more profitable than those in deprived areas but we don’t see them opening shops there”, said Campaign for Fairer Gambling’s Adrian Parkinson.
“Instead, they are clustering on the high streets of deprived areas.
“Why are there only 21 betting shops in Aberdeenshire while North Lanarkshire has 87?
“It’s up to councillors and politicians to get to grips with this problem before Scotland’s high streets descend into a toxic economy of betting shops and payday loan operators.”
Rutherglen and Hamilton West Labour MP, Tom Greatrex, said: “Councils should have the ability to determine whether there are too many machines in a particular area.”
FOBTs, branded by critics “crack cocaine for gamblers”, allow people to bet up to £300 a minute on virtual versions of casino games like blackjack and roulette.
Last month the Campaign for Fairer Gambling revealed that the poorest quarter of England’s population wagered more than £13bn on FOBTs in 2013, which was double the amount gambled in the richest areas.
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.”