Addictive high-stake gambling machines are to blame for a high rise in reported crime at betting shops across the country, according to campaigners.
A Freedom of Information request to the gambling regulator revealed that police were called out to betting shops 9,083 times last year, an increase of 1,600 incidents on 2013.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling says the rise is down to punters turning violent after using addictive Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).
FOBTs, sometimes dubbed the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’, offer computerised casino-style games and players can bet up to £100 every 20 seconds.
Adrian Parkinson, spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, said: “When you look at the gambling industry as a whole, betting shops account for 97 per cent of all criminal incidents.
“If you speak to any betting shop worker, they will tell you that FOBTs are the cause. The addictive nature of the machines, the exceptionally high losses that can be incurred, drive people to lose control, smash machines up, cause criminal damage and even threaten, spit at and attack staff.”
One incident involved a gambler in the Midlands losing £5,000 in one afternoon on an FOBT, then using his last £5 to purchase a claw hammer to vandalise the machines.
The figures on betting shop crime were released by the Gambling Commission under the Freedom of Information Act.
Labour’s shadow gambling minister Clive Efford said: “These figures are especially alarming as staff in betting shops say they are discouraged from calling the police or recording incidents relating to FOBTs which leads to a great deal of underreporting.
“Labour has consistently called for local authorities to be given more powers to deal with premises that are causing concerns in their local communities and these figures show that the Government needs to act.”
A spokesperson for the Gambling Commission said the figures do not give the reasons for the police call-outs or relate them to particular products.