Code to tackle gambling debt in Medway
A voluntary code on gambling
could be in place within months to protect residents from
spiralling into debt.
Community safety chief Cllr Mike
O’Brien (Con), Labour leader Cllr Vince Maple and Liberal Democrat
leader Geoff Juby discussed the issue with Rob Burkett, national
policy development manager from the Gambling Commission at a
Following advice from the
organisation, the council will now work with betting shops, bingo
halls, licensed amusement arcades and others to set up the
It could include making sure
self-exclusion from betting shops is better enforced, by ensuring
communication between branches of the same bookmakers and also
Concerns have been raised about the
level of debt in the Towns, and in particular the lure of betting
machines that have been called the “crack cocaine” of gambling.
Shocking statistics released last
year revealed more than £200 million is spent on Fixed Odds Betting
Terminals in Medway each year. The machines allow players to bet on
the outcome of various games and events with fixed odds.
The most commonly played game is
roulette and others include bingo, simulated horse racing,
greyhound racing and a range of slot machine games.
There are 135 across the three
Medway parliamentary constituencies – Chatham and Aylesford,
Gillingham and Rainham and Rochester and Strood.
The time between spins of the roulette wheel is about 20 seconds
and it is possible to bet up to £100 a time – or up to £18,000 an
Cllr Vince Maple (pictured right),
leader of Medway Council’s Labour Group, said it was time for the
industry to “put up or shut up”.
“This is a chance for the industry
to prove they care about problem gamblers and are not just
exploiting people, which is the perception people have.”
Cllr O’Brien said: ‘We are very
concerned that these highly addictive machines can leave local
residents in serious financial trouble very quickly.
“I am grateful to the Gambling
Commission for their advice and guidance, which included some other
examples of councils taking different approaches to this issue -
these examples may well be things which Medway Council can learn
Scarborough Council holds regular
meetings with gambling companies, something which could be
established here in the Towns.
A spokesman for the Association of
British Bookmakers challenged the Campaign for Fairer Gambling’s
He said: “Electronic gaming
machines in betting shops return 97% to the player, which means the
real figure is most probably 3% of what is being claimed.
“While it is accurate that the
industry generates profits of around £1.4 billion on all machine
games (including slot machines), the claim that £5.6 billion was
spent on machines in the 50 most deprived areas in the UK last year
is simply false."
The spokesman said the average
amount of money spent by a person on the machines is £10 and they
spent around 20 minutes on the terminals at a time.
He added: “The only way someone
could lose £18,000 an hour is if they put £100 into a machine every
twenty seconds and lost every single game.
“There is more chance of winning the National Lottery for three
consecutive weeks than that happening.”
The ABB has agreed to meet with
Medway Council to discuss concerns about Fixed Odds Betting
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