Over the past eight years, gamblers across the north and north-east of the United Kingdom have spent above £114 million on fixed odds betting machines (FOBTs), new research shows. These terminals allow gamers to make large bets every 20 seconds or so, often bringing games like blackjack and roulette to the screens.
The statistics that have been brought forth by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling show that between 2008 and 2016, Aberdeen in Scotland has given £63.5 million over to such terminals. Not only that, but it is thought that about £25 million of this amount was spent by people considered to be problem gamblers. In fact, the cumulative total when it comes to Scotland stands at £1,158,085,657 altogether, which equals just over £250,000 every week!
Looking at such figures gives a bit more of an insight into why the UK Gambling Commission is recommending the reduction of maximum bets on such games. While the maximum at the moment exists as £100 every round, the recommendation is that they should be cut down to £30 or less, and this is a figure that several organisations still aren’t happy with. Many wanted the Commission to suggest a larger reduction – to £2.
Serious Figures Lead to Additional Speculation
The UK government is still presiding over its moves towards the terminals, but it’s not only these statistics that need to be looked at. It was only in 2015 that a man from Inverurie known as Lee Murphy chose to end his own life following his amassing of over £30,000 in debt. His addiction? The FOBT machines under discussion. His widow, Wendy Bendal has since said that she wishes for the terminals to be banned entirely.
It’s with such events and the recently revealed statistics on the north and north-east that Kevin Stewart – Aberdeen Central SNP MSP – chose to voice his opinion on the maximum limits of these terminals. He said that he wants them to be lowered to £2 and is certainly not against them being outlawed in their entirety. He said that he was appalled at the £63 million that has been inserted into FOBTs in Aberdeen over the past eight years. Referencing Mr Murphy, he said that Lee’s own gambling was focused around the FOBTs, before stating that his sad death servers as a “horrible reminder” as to how devastating they actually can be.
The Fast Forward youth charity CEO, Alistair MacKinnon also voiced his opinion on things. He said that the charity supports the view that the best approach to a possible reduction in gambling related harm is to go forward with a range of different actions. Lowering the maximum bet that players can place on FOBTs is one such move that it supports.
However, not all can consider themselves behind such a move. One spokesperson for the Association of British Bookmakers stated that betting stores actually provide the local and national economy with a significant contribution. Furthermore, there are almost 400 people in the Aberdeen City and Shire area that are employed in the sector, paying about £8.5 million every year in taxes. “Mr Stewart’s call for a £2 stake would put 2,500 staff in Scotland out of work…”, he said, before claiming that this move also wouldn’t do anything to address the actual issue of problem gambling. This, he said, would simply force customers to displace themselves into other gambling locations, like arcades and pubs.