This article was written for the Rhymney Valley Express and Local View.
Many people, myself included, like to have a flutter on the ‘nags’ now and again. Or occasionally I might make an investment on who will score the second goal in a football match. But this is not the modern face of gambling. In betting offices around the country we are seeing a rapid introduction of FOBTs. What are these you may ask? Well, they are Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals.
You could be forgiven for thinking that these are nothing more than glorified one arm bandits - OK for using up your loose change. But you would be wrong. FOTBs are known as the ‘Crack Cocaine’ of gambling. They are high-tech machines which have shown to be four times more addictive than anything else in a bookmakers.
Today, there are 33,000 FOTBs across the country, earning the bookmakers an estimated £1.5 billion profit each year.
Walk into most bookies today and you will see these FOTBs offering virtual Roulette or Black Jack. You can bet £100 every 20 seconds and payment is easy through a credit card.
Unfortunately, what we are seeing is more and more people becoming addicted to gambling on these machines and losing vast sums of money, quickly and easily. And it is those who can least afford to lose such large sums of money, are the ones who are being hit hardest.
That is why Ed Miliband and Labour introduced an amendment in the House of Commons to give local Councils the power to curb gambling shops with FOTBs. Sadly, but predictably, the amendment was lost but Labour MPs are determined to make sure that people are protected from these addictive and exploitative machines.
Indeed, some people would like to go further. It has been reasonably suggested that there ought to be a stricter limit on the amount which can be gambled in a given time. Personally, I think there is a lot to be said for this as well.
I am not a killjoy but I strongly believe that there is a fine line between enjoyment and exploitation. FOTBs have crossed that line.