Scarborough gamblers pumped £60.7 million into betting machines dubbed ‘as addictive as crack cocaine’ last year, according to new figures.
It is the equivalent of around £558 a year for every person in the town, which has nine bookmakers within a one mile radius.
This week it emerged Coral bookmakers is planning to relocate from its current premises in Valley Bridge Parade to an empty unit next to The Lord Rosebery pub in Westborough. The proposed new branch, which was formerly a Going Places travel agents, is located directly opposite Betfred.
A report by Fairer Gambling shows there are a total of 16 betting shops in the Scarborough and Whitby constituency, which house at least 58 high-stakes gambling machines.
The Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) allow gamblers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on casino-style games such as roulette.
Adrian Parkinson, a campaigner with Fairer Gambling, which is lobbying for better regulation, said: “The high stakes and speed of play have led to the machines being called “the crack cocaine of gambling”, and the Gambling Act 2005 limits each betting shop to four FOBTs – so bookies leapfrog regulations by opening up as many shops as possible, which is why we get clustering, especially in poorer areas as our research has shown.”
However, Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill said he was “reasonably relaxed” about the number of bookmakers on the high street, as betting could be monitored, unlike online gambling.
“If a person has a gambling problem, it is more likely to be picked up in a bookmakers. It is far more preferable to going online and potentially losing money a lot quicker. I’m more worried about empty shops than betting shops,” he said.
“From time to time people complain there are too many bookmakers, but to be honest I’m pleased we have got them coming in. I wouldn’t want to put anyone off given the amount of empty units available.”
Odds are against the high street
The president of Scarborough’s Chamber of Trade has expressed major concerns over the number of bookmakers on the high street.
As more town centre businesses close, betting shops are moving in, said Janet Jefferson, who also represents the Castle ward on the borough council.
“We seem to be getting a predominance of pawnbrokers, phone shops and bookies,” she said. “I’m concerned as I think people would generally rather see a retailer or some other draw for the town centre.”
Cllr Jefferson added that she was worried for the first time about the number of vacant units on the high street.
“I think this timne of year is always difficult but It’s proving to be a very long winter and I’m not sure that Coral potentially moving across the road from another bookmakers will help attract shoppers,” she said.