William Hill has been criticised for encouraging staff to remind customers that they can still bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
William Hill, which has over 2,300 shops across the UK, said it was “concerned” about a recent drop in profits from FOBTs – known as the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ – fearing it was because “many may believe the limits are already in place”.
It emailed staff saying: “Please be aware there is no change to the current maximum stake of £100 and if appropriate ensure that your customers are aware of this fact so they can continue to enjoy playing gaming machines as they do currently.”
The bookmaker reportedly has nearly 10,000 of the machines, each one making an average annual profit of over £50,000, The Times reported.
Matt Zarb-Cousin, from the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, criticised William Hill’s email, saying: “If the bookies had any sense of social responsibility, they’d cut the stake to £2 now, but instead they’re encouraging their staff to milk the FOBT cash-cow as much as they can off the backs of the vulnerable.”
Liz Ritchie, whose son Jack committed suicide last year in Vietnam at the age of 24, first started gambling on FOBTs when he was 17.
Speaking to columnist Dominic Lawson, she said: “He was groomed by the gambling companies. These are ordinary children targeted by British firms.
“The idea that we allow these companies to target children’s mental health to the point that they’re poisoned, to the point that they want to kill themselves . . . words fail me”, she said.
Liz went on to criticise the decision to wait until 2020 to introduce the lower maximum stake: “How many more of our children will be ruined in the meantime?”
She has started a new campaign group along with other bereaved parents called ‘Gambling With Lives’, which seeks to force the gambling industry to face up to its responsibilities.