Scarborough's hidden gambling losses

The problem in numbers
The problem in numbers

More than £3 million was lost by people in the borough last year on fixed odds (FOBTS) betting terminals.

That is according to the Stop FOBTs action group, which is aiming to highlight the dangers of the machines.

Fixed odds betting terminals, or B2s are touch-screen roulette machines found in betting shops across Britain, on which gamblers can play casino-style games with £100 maximum stake per spin.

The amount that can be placed on one spin can lead to big winnings, but also, to devastating losses.

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling wants the maximum stake on FOBTs reduced to £2 spin to bring them in line with all other gaming machines in the UK.

It is aiming to gather public support to put pressure on the Government to take action on the “crack cocaine of gambling” – which are available in betting shops on every high street.

As part of its campaign Stop FOTBs has calculated how much was spent in every part of the county on these type of machines.

In the borough of Scarborough it is estimated there were at least 69 of the machines in use in 2016.

It is claimed that more than £12 million was inserted in 2016 with a staggering £64 million in play across the year.

This lead to losses of more than £3 million in Scarborough, with £20 million lost since 2008.

BACTA, the trade association for the amusement and arcade gaming machine industry, says the statistics support its calls for the maximum stake to be reduced to £20 to protect addicts.

John White, chief executive of BACTA, said: “Fixed-odds betting terminals are a hardcore form of gambling, entirely unsuitable for everyday high-street venues.

“With stake limits at £100, 50 times that of any other widely available gaming machine, they allow consumers and at-risk gamblers to rack up huge losses.”

A spokesman for the Association of British Bookmakers responded that: “BACTA is only attacking betting shops because independent research recently showed that machine players lose more money, more quickly in an amusement arcade than they do in a betting shop.

“With most problem gamblers undertaking gambling in a range of venues a focus on a single product, such as machines in betting shops, is misplaced and the gambling industry as a whole needs to focus on identifying individuals with gambling problems and those at risk of harm. This places responsibility on all sectors of the gambling industry to collectively take steps to identify problem gamblers and point them to support services that can help.

However, it is now thought that the Government is changing its position on the machines.”

A recent report in The Times, claimed that Chancellor Phillip Hammond had dropped his opposition to the proposals to reduce the maximum stake.

All Party Parliamentary Group chair Carolyn Harris MP said: “The Government must substantially reduce the maximum stake played on FOBTs.”

The Chancellor was reluctant to support the proposals as the cut would cost the Treasury £400 million in lost revenue, but after months of pressure Hammond has now backed down.

According to The Times, a review into the gambling industry is due next month and will recommend a number of options – keeping the maximum stake at £100, reducing it to just £2 and another two figures in between.

Prime Minister Theresa May is thought to be against leaving the maximum as it is.

All Party Parliamentary Group chairwoman Carolyn Harris MP said: “The Government must substantially reduce the maximum stake played on FOBTs.”

Speaking earlier this year, Tim Miller from the Gambling Commission said: “For many, gambling is an enjoyable leisure activity. But for some people gambling can become a problem with serious consequences for them, their families and their communities.

“Whilst overall problem gambling rates in Britain have remained statistically stable, our research suggests that in excess of two million people are at risk or classed as problem gamblers, with very many more impacted by the wider consequences of gambling-related harm.”