How Britain is getting addicted to the bookies' slot machines


Roulette machines in high street bookmakers are blamed for creating a new generation of problem gamblers.

Only one in 20 gamblers play roulette and blackjack on so-called "fixed-odds betting terminals" (FOBT) installed in bookies, but they can hook players into frittering away cash day after day, according to a BBC investigation.

A Panorama documentary to be screened tonight spoke to three betting shop managers who said they believed FOBT machines could turn normal gamblers into addicts.

A former manager with 23 years' experience told the programme: "After FOBT machines were introduced to betting shops, the number of problem gamblers mushroomed."

When he set up a training programme to show his staff how to play the FOBT games, "there was a marked increase in staff gambling", he claimed.

He added: "Some, when caught, claimed they'd developed an addiction to roulette.

"They were provided with support and counselling to keep the problem internal."

FOBT machines account for up to 80 per cent of the turnover of individual bookmakers, but the Gambling Commission does not believe they need casino-style gaming licences because horseracing and football are still their "primary activity".

Three quarters of the British population enjoy a flutter, but for almost 1 per cent of the population – approximately 450,000 people – gambling is an addiction, according to the Panorama investigation.

Professor Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, who helped to found the national charity GamCare in 1997, said: "We know that there are over 200 Gamblers Anonymous groups. We know that there are 50,000 people ringing the GamCare helpline. And we know that's probably just the kind of tip of the iceberg."

The British gambling industry generates a profit of £5.6bn every year and voluntarily funds research into and treatment of problem gambling. But last year, those contributions amounted to 0.1 per cent of the industry's annual profits.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which has never used its power to force the industry to raise more funds, said funding for problem gambling was "sufficient". Amid a rise in the prevalence of sport betting and online gambling, however, some experts believe more resources are needed to tackle the problem.

Professor Jim Oxford, a psychologist at the University of Birmingham, warned: "We know gambling can be addictive. Anybody can be affected by gambling. It begins in a small way and builds up to the point at which people can be totally preoccupied with it. It is a genuine mental health problem."

The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), which represents the major high street names, denied that there was any link between the machines and problem gambling.

ABB spokesman, Dirk Vennix, said: "There is no empirical evidence linking machines to addiction. We really care about this issue and make sure that the vulnerable are protected. More than 8 million customers use our shops safely and responsibly day in day out."

For almost 1 per cent of the UK population, about 450,000 people, gambling is an addiction

Case study: 'When my son died, I lost it and needed to escape'

When her baby son, Ethan, died seven years ago, Keelin Carroll, from Surrey, sought comfort in bingo slot machines.

When it was quiet in the house my mind would start whirring, and I couldn't cope with the emotions that came into my head. I felt I needed to escape," she said.

One of an increasing number of women addicted to gambling, Ms Carroll she would play bingo on Sunday afternoons and spend hours afterwards feeding coins into slot machines.

"When Ethan died I just felt completely lost," she told Panorama. "Within days I had been to the bank and taken out a loan of a few thousand pounds. I just needed to lose myself for a little while, to numb the pain.

"I couldn't cope. I did have a few times where I did break down and I was crying and I was really upset.

"It was visually obvious that I had issues and not one person ever came to me and said this is the help out there if you want to take it, it's there for you."

She eventually sought help for her addiction from GamCare and has not gambled for nearly 18 months. After a year of counselling – and with two more children – she feels she has regained control of her life.

"I'm fighting this addiction for me and for my children," she said. "My children are my world, and I want to set a good example to them. I think I'll be fighting this addiction for the rest of my life."

Mecca Bingo said thag it was unaware of Ms Carroll's "alleged gambling addiction" and strenuously denied it had ignored or exploited her problem.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor


Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all