Camden residents lose £16m on ‘crack cocaine’ gambling machines in one year

PUBLISHED: 15:33 22 July 2015 | UPDATED: 16:11 22 July 2015

A fixed odd betting terminal. Picture: PA Images/Daniel Hambury

A fixed odd betting terminal. Picture: PA Images/Daniel Hambury

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Camden residents lost a staggering £16million on betting machines last year alone – leading to calls for the government to clamp down on what is being called the “crack cocaine” of the gambling industry.

Figures showed gamblers in the borough had lost £16,491,272 betting on controversial Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT) as part of losses in the capital totaling £459m.

The vast profits accumulated by the machines, viewed as more addictive than other forms of gambling, has prompted calls for their use to be curbed.

The figures, provided to London Mayoral hopeful Sadiq Khan MP, also showed the city’s residents have lost approximately £3 billion on FOBT’s since 2008 – equivalent to 39,000 jobs.

Mr Khan said: “We need to make a difference to people’s lives in Camden by giving councillors the powers to crackdown on this blight.

“The explosion in the use of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals over the last decade and the sheer amount of money being lost in them is a cause for deep concern.

“We already knew that bookies were targeting the desperate and vulnerable by deliberately setting-up shop in deprived communities, but now we know just how much money they’re extracting from the people they prey on.

“The astronomical sums which are being leeched by the gambling industry from some of our most impoverished communities ought to be a stain on our collective social conscience and a spur for genuine action.

“It is clear that tougher regulation is needed to combat these machines, and the misery they are inflicting on our communities.

“The truth is Labour ministers got this wrong in the past and we need to fix it before another generation become addicted to using these machines which ruin so many people’s lives.”

The government recently rejected requests from 93 councils for powers to allow them to limit the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2.

A spokesperson for The Campaign for Fairer Gambling said: “The increasing clustering and proliferation of betting shops and FOBTs across London is a major issue that the next mayor of London will need to tackle.”

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