£3m lost in a single summer - why Lancashire gamblers are counting the cost of high-stakes bets

Gamblers in Lancashire could lose almost £3m on high-stakes betting machines as MPs go on holiday.
£3m lost in a single summer - why Lancashire gamblers are counting the cost of high-stakes bets£3m lost in a single summer - why Lancashire gamblers are counting the cost of high-stakes bets
£3m lost in a single summer - why Lancashire gamblers are counting the cost of high-stakes bets

The estimated loss of £2,952,551 by the county’s gamblers comes as campaigners put pressure on the Government to bring into effect measures to protect problem gamblers.

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In Preston the new data predicts that gamblers could lose out on £409,906 over the 42-day recess period.

John White, Bacta chief executiveJohn White, Bacta chief executive
John White, Bacta chief executive
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It comes second to Blackpool, which will the be worst hit in the county, with gamblers almost doubling Preston’s figure, collectively waving goodbye to £748,387.

Meanwhile gamblers in South Ribble are facing a loss of £204,953 and in Chorley they will lose £170,794.

The figures show the urgency of implementing £2 maximum stake on addictive machines without delay says Bacta, the trade association for the amusement and gaming machine industry.

Gambling Addiction Terry Kilgariff, a compulsive gamblerGambling Addiction Terry Kilgariff, a compulsive gambler
Gambling Addiction Terry Kilgariff, a compulsive gambler

While the Government has announced plans to reduce the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2, concerns have been raised over the delay in implementing the change, which may not become law until 2020.

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Preston councillor John Swindells has previously campaigned on planning law to limit the number of betting shops coming into the city.

He said: “The delay is incomprehensible. They have seen there’s a problem - that it puts families in serious worry and financial difficulty, yet they kick it into the long grass for two years.

“There doesn’t seem to be any logic in that at all.

“They should bring forward the legislation to make it happen as soon as possible.

“The reduced stakes will reduce the number of outlets in fixed-odds betting terminals because they won’t be as profitable as in the past.

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“The changes have been a long time coming - we welcomed the change but there’s no reason they should wait two years to put it in place.”

Terry Kilgariff, who spent 40 years hooked on the machines, says they ruined his life.

He said: “My concern about the fixed-odds betting terminals is that I became very much addicted to them and I have had a compulsive gambling disorder since they came in in 2001.

“After they took over they ruined my life.”

Terry, who tried to take his life twice as a result of his addiction, is a member of Preston’s Gamblers Anonymous and now goes round the county giving talks about gambling addiction.

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He said: “Fixed-odds betting terminals are actually proven to be addictive because they access the part of the brain that gets addicted.

“It’s not about winning or the money, it’s the anticipation that attracts the addictive part of the brain.

People go into a betting shop with the intention of winning money back but that just exacerbates the issue. They might want £300 and they might get back £1,000 but they literally cannot come off because of the addiction.

“We have had about 200 people come into Gamblers Anonymous and over the last 10 years about 60 per cent were coming through with problems around fixed-odds betting terminals. The machines are horrendous and the sooner the £2 max comes in the better.

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“The two years is to give the betting shops time to find alternatives. I anticipate that it will go underground and online. The biggest problem that we now have is that its online.”

John White, CEO of Bacta, said: “As MPs return to their constituencies for the summer recess, we hope many will reflect on the harm that continues to be posed to the people they represent by high stakes FOBTs.

“The Government has taken a huge step forward by ordering a £2 maximum stake, but until that is implemented, problem and at-risk gamblers are still being exposed to dangerously addictive machines on a daily basis. As these figures show, that means many will continue to rack up critically high losses over the summer months.

“The delay between the announcement of the £2 stake and its implementation is clearly too long. There is no technical justification for this and it is putting vulnerable people at risk.

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“The Government has made the right decision, and we now urge it to speed up the process.”

MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood Cat Smith said she was disappointed with the delay.

“Capitulating to a two year delay is a pathetic move from a fundamentally weak Government,” she said. “Those who praised the Government when the initial announcement was made will now feel badly let down. The Government are already rolling back on their promises and allowing these machines to ruin more lives.”

Forty-eight Members of Parliament have now signed an Early Day Motion calling on Government to implement the reduction to a £2 stake with immediate effect, citing concerns about the risk of harm to problem gamblers.

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The All Party-Parliamentary Group on FOBTs has found that over £3bn of losses have been incurred by gamblers on FOBTs since the Government launched its consultation into stake levels in October 2016.

Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “The move to reduce the maximum stake for fixed odds betting machines is widely welcomed and the sooner that this brought into law the better.

“The summer recess has delayed the process somewhat but the legislation isn’t due to come into effect until 2020 so I don’t think that Parliamentary break can be wholly to blame – of course, the amusement and gaming machine industry working with BACTA could reduce their maximum stakes under their own steam, this could be done overnight.”