Scandal of Fife’s £9m fixed odds betting bill

Stock image
Stock image

A Fife MSP has called for more to be done to tackle the scourge of fixed odds betting machines that have cost Fifer’s £9m in the last year alone.

Jenny Gilruth, MSP for Mid Fife and Glenrothes, has this week called on the UK government to take tougher action to tackle the problem of Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in local betting shops, after figures from the Campaign for Fairer Gambling revealed over £63million had been lost on the machines across Fife since 2008.

Statistics have revealed £1billion has been lost on the machines, known as the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’, since 2008 across Scotland.

It has led to Ms Gilruth calling on the UK government to take action to tackle FOBTs, which remains reserved to Westminster.

The MSP wants a reduction of machines allowed in betting shops, limiting the stakes, reducing the time that can be spent on them, and an outright ban altogether if people continue to lose.

“These are incredibly concerning figures and show that the government cannot continue to ignore it is having such a negative impact on our communities,” said Ms Gilruth .

“This is a huge problem and the UK government need to get serious about tackling it.

“It is no wonder given how much people have lost out from using these toxic machines.”

Ms Gilruth has now called on the Westminster government to act.

Introduced into betting shops in 2002, at a time when the industry was unregulated, FOBTs have multiplied in recent years and according to the Campaign For Fairer Gambling, the machines are responsible for a higher contribution to problem gambling than any other form.

Ms Gilruth’s concerns follow fines imposed on online gambling firm 888, which was fined £7.8m by the Gambling Commission for failing to protect vulnerable customers.

However, as pressure mounts on the government and the betting industry, the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), the trade body for most high street betting shops, hit backsaying that 99 per cent of their customers gamble “harm free”.

And the ABB pointed towards the Gambling Commission’s report from February 2017 that found evidence that gamblers are at much greater risk of losing more of their money and are playing for a longer time on gaming machines in arcades than on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.