A recovering gambling addict who runs an anonymous support group claims bookmakers are feeding the habit of those betting compulsively across the district.
John Spice, who leads weekly Gamblers Anonymous meetings in Herne Bay, spoke out after a Gazette investigation exposed serious flaws in an industry-wide self-exclusion scheme designed to help addicts.
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Mr Spice says the scheme is not being properly policed by shop staff, who are supposed to regularly check a folder containing photographs of those excluded.
“One of the guys in the group used to work in a betting shop,” he explained.
“He said the self-exclusion information was put straight into a file and it was not looked at every day. He was certain the whole process was a bit lax.
“If problem gamblers are not being helped by the gambling companies, it just encourages them to feed the addiction day after day.”
The findings of our investigation have sparked a Gambling Commission probe and were said to have highlighted a “real threat” by Kent MP Damian Collins, the chair of the culture, media and sport committee.
BetFred, which has shops in Canterbury, Herne Bay, Whitstable, also launched an internal review in light of our expose.
Mr Spice says there should be tighter controls on the industry and self-exclusion schemes.
He says facial recognition technology should be rolled out to help protect problem gamblers from themselves.
“The bookmakers think of profit more than people’s health - that’s the way it is unfortunately.
“The addiction is as strong as heroin on occasions. We have people in our group who have lost upwards of £100,000 or £200,000 from gambling.”
Gamblers Anonymous meetings take place at Christ Church in William Street, Herne Bay, at 7.30pm every Thursday.