gambling machines

Bookies caught letting under 18’s gamble on FOBTs

5th Dec 2018 - Rachael Adams

An undercover investigation has found that bookies are not enforcing the law on gambling, by letting under-18s bet on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTS).

Richard Pendleton for the Daily Mail led an investigation which saw 17 old school boy Tom visit bookies across London.

In each of the betting shops Tom would try and play on the FOBTs and he was allowed to do that unchallenged by a member of staff, it was agreed he would then approach staff face-to-face and ask them for change from a £10 or £20 note so that he could continue to gamble.

Three of the major betting chains – William Hill, Paddy Power and Ladbrokes Coral – allowed him to bet. In around two thirds of the Ladbrokes premises the staff allowed him to play FOBTs.

FOBTs - dubbed the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ are highly addictive; gamblers can bet £100 every 20 seconds on the machines. FOBT’s have been linked closely to crippling debt, crime, mental health issues, marriage and family breakdown and in extreme cases – suicide.

You can read the full investigation here.

Tom had this to say about his experience: 'While I was losing on the fixed-odds terminals, I struggled to understand what the appeal was. But as I started to win — and I don't mean a couple of pounds here and there, but tens and twenties — I started to become increasingly reckless, betting more and more and, crucially, continuing to bet after I had repeatedly lost. That's when I understood why people become addicted to betting — and to these machines in particular.”

CARE campaigned for the stakes to be significantly reduced on these machines. The Government has now committed to reducing the stakes on these machines from £100 to £2 per spin, with the change set to happen by 2019.

But action on this alone is not enough. A new report published by the Gambling Commission which showed the number of child gamblers has quadrupled in just two years.

The Gambling Commission's figures suggest 450,000 children aged 11-16 bet on a regular basis, while 55,000 children were classed as problem gamblers. It also warned that children are being inundated by gambling adverts, with two in three saying that have seen it on TV.

Lord Chadlington warned that: “we are on the brink of a gambling epidemic in this country” and The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Alan Smith referred to the current situation as a “generational scandal”.

It’s clear more must be done to protect problem gamblers and to safeguard children. CARE is campaigning for stricter controls around gambling advertising. You can read more about our work on gambling here.

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