‘Slot machine farms’ multiplying on Britain’s high streets

Gambling giants are expanding their network of ‘cash guzzling’ betting shops, the Observer has reported.

An investigation by the newspaper suggests major betting firms Admiral and Merkur are in “growth mode” in anticipation of regulations governing slots being eased.

According to the Gambling Commission, income from lucrative £2-a-spin ‘B3’ slot machines increased by 23 per cent between April 2022 and March 2023, yielding £1.86bn.

Growth sector

Observer reporter Rob Davies said: “slot machine farms are one of the few high street venues quietly flourishing on Britain’s high streets despite, or perhaps because of, the cost of living crisis”.

He argued that “Slots operators are dab hands at bringing in customers and keeping them playing. Staff offer free tea, coffee and snacks – a small expense given how quickly the outlay comes flooding back”.

On average, Davies said, each arcade B3 machine “now makes £30,500 a year, sucking up the equivalent of an average person’s annual salary”.

Admiral currently runs 275 shops in the UK and boasts “if we’re not already on your high street, we might be very soon”. It’s nearest rival Merkur opened 36 outlets last year and now has 230 shops.

‘Under the radar’

Davies said that with Government attention focussed on fixed-odds betting terminals and virtual, online slots games, “adult gaming centres have largely flown under the radar”.

Consultant Psychologist Dr Matt Gaskell – Clinical Lead for The NHS Northern Gambling Service – warned: “At low stakes, your money can last longer.

“Patients talk to me about losing long periods of time. It just adds to the preoccupation and the constant reinforcement and engagement with that product.”

One 64-year-old addict told the Observer she had lost just under £2,000 during two days of play on £2-a-spin machines. Wendy Hughes admitted she’d just “keep loading the 20s in”, as if in a daze.

Online slots

Stake limits for online slot machine games are to be pegged back by the Government in an attempt to combat the dangers of gambling.

From September, under-25s will be limited to £2 per spin when using online slots, and over-25s to a maximum stake of £5.

The National Gambling Helpline has reported that the percentage of UK gamblers concerned about the use of online slots almost doubled between 2018 and 2023.

Official figures show that online casino games dominate the sector, generating £4bn in profit for the year to March 2023, of which £3.2bn came from online slots games.

Also see:

Gambling apps

Numbers seeking help for gambling problems surge to record level

‘I went to jail for stealing £1.3m to gamble away’

Premier League ban on shirt gambling sponsors will have ‘minimal impact’

Problem gambling eight times worse than previously estimated

Health watchdog: ‘GPs should screen patients for gambling problems’

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