Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Hyndburns Fixed Odds Betting Terminals; The Crack Cocaine of Gambling

I am deeply concerned about the number of bookmakers in Hyndburn (and Haslingden) and the cumulative impact of the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals that appear to be driving this growth.

Constituents may have noticed the increasing number of betting shops that have sprung up in the constituency over the past few years. Fairer Gambling indicate there are "as many as 22 in Hyndburn". A quick count by my staff indicates there are at least 15 bookmakers and contradicts the figure quoted by William Hill of 12. (see list at foot of page)

Further to this, last week I tabled a Parliamentary Question asking how many licensed FOBT there are in bookmakers in the constituency.

The reason behind this increase in betting shops I believe is the profitability of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). The Gambling Act 2005 limited each betting shop to four FOBTs, but bookies leapfrog regulations by opening up as many shops as possible.

FOBTs have been described in the national press as the "crack cocaine of gambling" because of their propensity to turn people who enjoy a bet into problem gamblers. Research commissioned by a recent Dispatches programme found that there are 'more than twice as many betting shops in areas of high unemployment than there are in areas of low unemployment'.  Channel 4 in the their documentary state that "it is possible to stake up to £100 every twenty seconds on the machines, meaning it's possible to lose up to £18,000 an hour"(1) .


If each of a potential 22 betting shops in Hyndburn had the maximum of 4 terminals, then collectively they have the capacity to take in £1,080,000 per hour. Now the Tory-led Commons culture, media and sport select committee wants the limit raised to 20. Something I totally oppose despite the argument following on from the Portas inquiry this will positivily reduce the numbers of bookmakers.

A staggering £12.5 billion was gambled via William Hill and Ladbrokes’ betting machines in the first six months of this year alone.

I believe it's time to pull the plug on FOBTs. I have written to the Minister to raise my objections to the presence of these terminals on Britains high streets.
Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman has admitted the Labour Government was wrong to relax gambling laws that have brought high-stakes gambling machines to bookmakers in Britain.

In an interview for Channel 4’s Dispatches to be shown tomorrow evening, Ms Harman condemned her party’s Gambling Act for promoting an increase in bookies with Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), which she believes are blighting some of the UK’s poorest communities.

Channel 4 On Demand 
Labour’s deputy leader, who was a senior member of the Cabinets of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said: ‘I think we were wrong. We have made a mistake and we need to do something about it.

‘If we had known then what we know now, we wouldn’t have allowed this.

‘It’s not just ruining the high street, it’s ruining people’s lives.’ This is the first time Ms Harman, who is in charge of Labour’s gambling policy, has explicitly blamed the Labour Government for the increase in gambling.
Ms Harman said she had been driven to speak out after hearing stories from people who have become hooked on FOTBs, which allow people to stake £100 at a time on roulette, blackjack or poker games in the hope of winning £500.

‘I have got the most heart-rending letters and emails and calls that I’ve ever had in 30 years of being an MP, just saying, “Please, do something about this. It’s ruined my life, it’s ruined my family, it’s really dangerous.”

‘And the problem is, it’s getting worse and that’s why we need the law changed so that something can be done about it.’
For further Information

Gamblers Anonymous

Fairer Gambling Campaign -

They're the high-tech one-armed bandits spreading like a cancer across High Streets. To their eternal shame, MPs want more of them.

Revealed: The £46bn cost of Britain's roulette machine addiction... and Labour made a mistake allowing 'casinos' to flourish, admits Harman

Hi Graham, First of all, apologies if my research was in any way incorrect. Here are the 22 betting shops I believe are in Hyndburn.

William Hill
1. 85 Blackburn Road, BB5 1JT
2. 43 High St, BB1 4JZ
3. 5 Queen St, BB6 7QL
4. 102 Whalley New Road, BB1 6LD
5. 26 Manchester Rd, BB4 5ST
6. Unit 1, Victory Parade, BB4 9AF

7. 15A Broadway, BB5 1ES
8. 35-37 Ainsworth St, BB1 6AS
9. 4 Union St, BB5 1PL
10. 2 Manchester Rd, BB4 5ST
11. 4 Union St, BB5 1PL
12. 2 Manchester Rd, BB4 5ST

13. 68 Henry Street, BB5 4EP
14. 33 Union St, BB5 1PL
15. 35 Queen St, BB6 7QP
16. 338 Union Rd, BB5 3JD
17. 88 Burnley Rd, BB12 8QN
18. 21 Railway Rd, BB1 5AX

19. 6 Ainsworth Rd, BB1 6AS
20. 333 Union Rd, BB5 3HS

21. 35 Queen St, BB6 7QP
22. 88 Burnley Road, BB12 8QN

As I said, if any of those aren't in Hyndburn, sincere apologies - I had to research it manually, which is why I put "as many as 22". But if Graham still wants to carry this forward, he should challenge Lewis Rogers and the Association of British Bookmakers to releasing the figures of the amount of betting shops, with street addresses and postcodes (so we can see where they're clustered) by constituency. This would allow MPs to see how bad the problem is on their doorstep.

I look forward to our meeting at conference where we could perhaps discuss this further.

Many thanks,
Matt Zarb-Cousin
Fairer Gambling Campaign