Some call them “fruit machines” – to others they’re known as the “crack cocaine of gambling”, but whatever they’re called fixed odds betting machines take billions from gamblers every single year.
The problem is so severe that the government has been forced to step in. Tracey Couch, the minister of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is planning on drastically lowering the maximum stake that can be placed on the machine.
The law currently allows users to place bets of £100 a time allowing some users to lose up to £300 in a single minute. Mrs Couch is determined to have this stake lowered to between £2 and £50 which the Conservatives believe will stop users from spiraling. However Labour don’t believe the changes go far enough believing that it’s the bookmakers will lobby for the £50 alternative in order to continue making money.
Tom Watson, the deputy DCMS leader, stated that the changes simply won’t make a difference and betting companies will still come out on top saying, “The bookies always win and they’ve won again today”.
UoGlos LIVE spoke to John Radcliff, an ex-drug and alcohol addict who now works for the world renowned Priory Group he told us that all addicts, no matter what they are addicted to, are searching for the same thing,“whilst one finds gambling another finds drugs” he went on to talk about how many gambling addicts seek change when it’s far too late “this urge to break even creates huge losses which catch up”.
Organisations like Gamble Aware and and Gamcare have fought against fixed odds betting from its inception saying that last year alone 233,000 FOBT users lost more than £1,000 in one sitting last year.
When speaking about the severity of the issue Radcliff told us that in all the years he’s worked helping addicts he’s “never met a gambler in the midsts of their addiction who’s on the up”.
Understandably bookmakers have a different opinion and UoGlos LIVE spoke to Barni Evans, marketing chief of Sportsbet Australia, who was head of marketing at leading Irish Bookmaker Paddy Power from 2001-2011 he told us that “thousands of jobs would be lost if these plans came to fruition” he also went on to tell us that FOBT will find “another fix” in order to support their habit. A local betting shop employee believes that lowering the maximum stake would lose companies “not a lot of business but a lot of money”.
“It’s clear that the UK government doesn’t want to help addicts, they’d much rather push them towards something different”. It wasn’t only FOBT’s that came under the microscope, the rapidly expending online betting industry will be more closely regulated as it was reveled that they raked in over £4.5 billion from only 7 million customers.