Blackpool’s £175m a year gambling machine epidemic

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in a bookmakers
Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in a bookmakers

More than £175m has been gambled in Blackpool in a year – on betting machines alone - according to latest figures.

The statistics have been released by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, which says tougher regulation must be brought in for fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

It comes amid claims that the number of young people becoming addicted to gambling has rocketed in recent years.

In 2013, the figure for Blackpool was £163m.

With 44 betting shops across Blackpool, gamblers themselves say fixed odds betting terminals are one of the major concerns.

Compulsive gambler Terry Kilgariff, from Wesham, describes FOBTs as “the worst thing that ever happened to (him)”.

He says: “They are ridiculously addictive, and it’s instant.

“I would never consider ever putting £200 on a horse.”

He says he had been into bookmakers with £1,000 of wages, and says: “I start off thinking I’ll put £20 on that machine and I lose it.

“You lose it and you think ‘I’ll win it back’, and before you know it you’re £600 down and that’s in half an hour.

“It’s so fast, and it’s so ridiculously out of control.

“It is criminal.”

But gambling has now also moved online, with a recent surge in young compulsive gamblers, hooked on internet betting.

Terry, 59, who attends Gamblers Anonymous (GA), explains: “The thing we are finding a lot is we are getting a lot of new people.”

He says the number of people with online gambling problems attending the meeting has increased, and says: “We are getting a lot of people who are up all night gambling online.

“If they are doing it online and it’s just the click of a button, they describe it as being like Monopoly money.

“If they had to go to the bank and take £500 cash out and hand it over then they might think twice, rather than just the press of a button.”

In Terry’s eyes, there are three “bottom lines” he sees compulsive gambling leading to: “prison, the streets, or the morgue.”

He is trying to encourage those with a problem to attend GA meetings, and says: “For every person who comes in the door, we know we could go into the street and find 10 other people who should be coming. From my point of view, I just don’t want to see people end up in the same situation I’ve found myself in.”