Gamblers place 1bn bets per month on addictive fixed-odds gambling machines

The "crack cocaine" of betting

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Almost one billion bets are placed every month using the controversial fixed-odds gambling machines which have been dubbed the “crack cocaine” of betting, a study has revealed.

In an illustration of the life-shattering losses these machines can cause, researchers discovered one individual lost more than £13,000 in a gambling session lasting more than seven hours. The average loss, however, was £7 per sitting.

Using play information from every branch of the five biggest High Street betting chains over the last 10 months, the report commissioned by the Responsible Gambling Trust found that more than seven billion bets had been made using the machines in that time.

Researchers also found a link between social deprivation and use of the machines. In England, two fifths of all bets were placed in venues in the most deprived areas. However this did reflect the distribution of bookies, with 38 per cent of the branches in the most deprived areas of the country.

Neil Goulden, chairman of the Responsible Gambling Trust, said: “This research has huge potential to inform the industry's approach to minimising gambling-related harm and we strongly urge the industry to make every effort to improve how problem behaviour is more effectively monitored and managed in the future."

Paul Darling QC, chairman of the Association of British Bookmakers, said: “The industry is committed to reducing gambling-related harm and we have already taken action on matters including opening hours, advertising, self-exclusion and tools to help customers to stay within their own limits. Some of our members are already using gaming machine customer data to identify potential problems, thereby better targeting customer interventions.

"We will now use this evidence to help determine how the industry can further help those customers who may be at risk.”