Labour is calling for a restriction on high stakes betting machines after it emerged that £76m has been gambled in just sixteen betting shops across Hemel Hempstead.
The roulette like machines, called Fixed Odd Betting Terminals (FOBT), allow gamblers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds with cash or via a debit card. Normal betting machines have a fixed stake of £2.
Figures published by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling estimate that £14,113,072 has been staked in the machines across the Hemel Hempstead parliamentary constituency with a total of £75,876.734 subsequently being gambled with a total loss to punters of £2,822,614.
There are fifty eight FOBT machines, which have been dubbed the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ in just sixteen high street bookmakers. That works out at just over three and a half machines in each shop. Across Dacorum the amount gambled reaches an eye watering £99,588.213.
Licences for the betting machines are issued by Dacorum Borough Council. Under the current legislation, Councils are expected to “aim to permit” applications for betting shops, even in areas where there is saturation.
Labour wants the council to follow the example of other councils and use the Sustainable Communities Act to call on the Government to reduce the maximum bet per spin on FOBTs to £2.
Tony Breslin, Labour’s PPC for Hemel Hempstead, said:
“I am challenging Mike Penning MP and council leader Andrew Williams to take a stand on this issue and put people before the profit and put the heart back into Hemel.”
“Bookmakers make more than £1.5bn profit from these machines which is more than that of the National Lottery. According to the most recent British Gambling Prevalence Survey, 56% of the population play the Lottery, but just 4% play FOBTs.”
“This isn’t simply having a flutter. These machines are designed to maximise profit and the result is ruined lives and communities. Research has shown there are four times as many betting shops poorer areas as there are in better off areas. Clearly there is a problem here and it is time to make a stand”.
“Legislation has to be changed to reduce the size of the stake to £2 but our MP is on the record as voting against more regulation for the gambling industry. Ed Miliband has already promised to give councils the power to refuse permit applications but I want our politicians to act now and join me in writing to the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport and the Prime Minister and call for a reduction in the stake”.