Roulette machines in casinos

Controversial: William Hill said £6.6bn was staked on electronic Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (right) in their 2,371 betting shops from January to JuneBy comparison, William Hill said £1.3 billion was wagered on over-the-counter bets on sports including horse racing and football over the same period. Ladbrokes said £1.2 billion was wagered on their over-the-counter bets in the first half of this year.

The chains revealed they made more than £350 million in net profit in the same period from FOBTs.

A staggering £12.5 billion was gambled via William Hill and Ladbrokes’ betting machines in the first six months of this year alone.

With more than 17, 000 machines between them, the top two bookies account for just over half of the 32, 000 machines in the UK. This means that for the whole of 2012, £25 billion is likely to be gambled at those bookmakers alone.

Even allowing for the fact that machines in other bookmaking chains might not have as many people playing them, the rapid and continuing rise in popularity of FOBTs means that the total for the year across the industry could be as much as £46 billion.

Other betting chains such as Coral and Paddy Power do not reveal how many FOBTs they operate or the amount of money wagered on them.

Big money: Ladbrokes said £5.9¿billion was wagered on electronic gambling machines in their 2, 137 outlets across the country in the same period

The latest figures – which were published by William Hill and Ladbrokes as part of their half-yearly results – have shocked anti-gambling campaigners and MPs, who have asked for tighter regulation of FOBTs.

Gareth Wallace, a policy adviser for the Salvation Army, said: ‘Studies have shown they are eight times more addictive than other forms of gambling.’

Toby Scott, director of communications for the Methodist Church in Britain, said: ‘The profit made from FOBTs is staggering. This is money being taken out of communities and family budgets. FOBTs are known as the “crack cocaine” of gambling.’

Big money: Ladbrokes said £5.9¿billion was wagered on electronic gambling machines in their 2,137 outlets across the country in the same periodLabour MP David Lammy said the machines have led to a huge expansion of bookmakers in some areas of the country. He said: ‘I want tighter regulation. If you look through the windows of bookies, all you see is young people losing money on these machines.’

Small change: By comparison, William Hill said £1.3bn was wagered on over-the-counter bets on sports including horse racing and football over the same period

FOBTs are either slot or virtual roulette machines with maximum payouts of £500 per bet. The slot machines allow a spin every three seconds, and customers can wager as much as £2 per bet. The virtual roulette machine allows three spins per minute and can swallow up to £18, 000 in one hour. The maximum bet is £100 per spin.

FOBTs offer better chances of winning than other types of gambling. On average, betting shops keep 8p for every £1 wagered, as 92p is given back as winnings. On the virtual roulette, the payout rate is 97.3 per cent.

With over-the-counter betting, the average payout rate is 85 per cent.

FOBTs were introduced in British betting shops in 2001 under the previous Labour Government, after the then Chancellor, Gordon Brown, abolished duty on individual bets in favour of a tax on bookmakers’ gross profits.

Had there not been a change in law, bookmakers would not have installed FOBTs as the tiny profit margin they make per stake would have been wiped out by the duty. Experts say FOBTs have stopped thousands of bookmakers from going out of business.

Gambling industry figures show that each FOBT machine earns a betting shop just under £1, 000 per week.

Small change: By comparison, William Hill said £1.3bn was wagered on over-the-counter bets on sports including horse racing and football over the same periodAs bookies across the country have on average four machines – the maximum allowed – FOBTs are earning a bookmaker about £4, 000 per week before tax and deductions.

William Hill have revealed that the gross profit they make from FOBTs has been steadily increasing. This year, they have been making £924 per week per machine, compared with £648 per week in 2007.

Other betting chains such as Coral and Paddy Power do not reveal how many FOBTs they operate or the amount of money wagered on them

In June, the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee recommended that the limit of four FOBT machines be increased if the local council feels this would prevent the clustering of gambling shops. Mr Lammy said: ‘It appears the Culture, Media and Sport Committee has been nobbled by the gambling industry.’

A spokesman for the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) said: ‘There is no evidence of a causal link between electronic gaming machines and problem gambling.’

A spokesman for Ladbrokes said: ‘FOBTs are popular products because they offer high payouts to customers, and there is no evidence to suggest that they are addictive.’ A William Hill spokesman referred The Mail on Sunday to the ABB for comment.

We made a mistake allowing 'casinos' to flourish in the high street

Regretful: Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman admits Labour was wrong to relax gambling laws

Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman has admitted the Labour Government was wrong to relax gambling laws that have brought high-stakes gambling machines to bookmakers in Britain.

In an interview for Channel 4’s Dispatches to be shown tomorrow evening, Ms Harman condemned her party’s Gambling Act for promoting an increase in bookies with Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), which she believes are blighting some of the UK’s poorest communities.

Labour’s deputy leader, who was a senior member of the Cabinets of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said: ‘I think we were wrong. We have made a mistake and we need to do something about it.

‘If we had known then what we know now, we wouldn’t have allowed this.

‘It’s not just ruining the high street, it’s ruining people’s lives.’ This is the first time Ms Harman, who is in charge of Labour’s gambling policy, has explicitly blamed the Labour Government for the increase in gambling.

Ms Harman said she had been driven to speak out after hearing stories from people who have become hooked on FOTBs, which allow people to stake £100 at a time on roulette, blackjack or poker games in the hope of winning £500.

‘I have got the most heart-rending letters and emails and calls that I’ve ever had in 30 years of being an MP, just saying, “Please, do something about this. It’s ruined my life, it’s ruined my family, it’s really dangerous.”

‘And the problem is, it’s getting worse and that’s why we need the law changed so that something can be done about it.’

Ms Harman, MP for Camberwell and Peckham, said FOTBs were ‘bringing casinos right into the high street’.

She added: ‘These machines are like mini-casinos – they’re not like the small machines you have in seaside arcades. People get addicted and lose all their money.

Other betting chains such as Coral and Paddy Power do not reveal how many FOBTs they operate or the amount of money wagered on them Regretful: Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman admits Labour was wrong to relax gambling laws High Stakes: Michael Crick investigates Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, which some have called the 'crack cocaine' of British gambling Raking it in: Each of the 32,000 electronic gambling machines takes an average of £40,000 from Britons each year (posed by model)
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