Britons gamble £46 billion on betting machines

Britons gamble £46 billion on betting machines

“They’re a menace to every high street,” said Tom Watson, a Labour MP, as he called on the Government to take urgent action and limit the stake values, lowering them from £100 to £2.

Figures from the commission show that on average bookmakers make a 3.4 per cent profit from the machines, on which players can choose from a number of games including roulette.

Last year’s profits, £1.5 billion, are up seven per cent on 2011-12 and are 47 per cent higher than 2009.

The machines now account for almost half of betting shops’ turnover, an increase of around 16 per cent since the beginning of the recession in 2008.

Despite acknowledging that the machines can cause addictions and even violence, ministers have so far refused to place restrictions on them.

A Department of Culture review last month found that “while it is clear that reducing stakes on (FOBT) machines by varying degrees would have an adverse economic impact on the betting industry, it is currently not clear how great an impact a reduction would have on gambling related harm.”

Labour MPs are set to vote to thrown out the entire review as secondary legislation is due to make it law today.

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling and the Stop the FOBTs (Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals) campaign have called for the £100 maximum stakes to be cut to £2, which is the maximum which can be bet on most fruit machines.

Despite having voiced concern over the machines in the past, the Liberal Democrats are expected to vote in favour of the review today.

The commission report also shows that the number of people who have “self excluded” themselves from betting shops because they can’t trust their betting habits has doubled over the past four years from 11,424 to 22,485.

Some 588,000 under-18s were stopped when they tried to enter a betting shop last year and 27,000 people were challenged once they had placed a bet.

The machines have been limited to four outlet, but there are ore than 33,000 of them across the country.

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