‘I couldn’t push folk into gambling debt’

Slot machines can ruin lives
Slot machines can ruin lives

A former Fife betting shop employee has told the Press how he quit his job after just a few weeks because he felt so guilty at encouraging customers to get into debt.

And another man, who owned his own betting shop, said he would never allow the machines into his premises because of the devastation they can cause.

Comments from people who use the machines and former betting shop staff have flooded in to the Press since last week’s story about the Kirkcaldy constituency being one of the highest spenders per head of population on fixed outcome betting terminals (FOBTs), with an average of £1200 per person spent on them in the past year.

Colin Ross, who ran an independent bookmakers for 13 years, said: “As an ex-bookmaker who is against the machines almost in entirety, I know that the major players who attempt to cover-up the problems and say machine gambling is under control are being untruthful.

“Fixed outcome betting terminals are the biggest singular problem, as they are in your face and instant. Play time is rapid and the buzz if not instantaneous is not far away. They must be restricted or the harm and deprivation they cause will become an epidemic.”

Another man, describing himself as “a social gambler” told the Press: “I have a shot of the fixed odds football and spend £5 every Saturday - but I have witnessed people lose up to £1000 a minute on these machines.

“I think banning them in Scotland would be fantastic because people become addicted to them. They are already banned in Dublin.”

Another former employee, who did not wish to be named, said: “I was basically forced to encourage people, many who I knew could not afford it, to part with their cash on these machines.

‘‘I had a screen where I could see who was spending, and if we saw someone spending lots we had to treat them like royalty – ply them with drinks and speak to them – to keep them gambling.

“I once asked someone who put a lot of money on a machine if he was sure he could afford it and my manager hauled me into his office and told me off for doing so because I was there to ‘get people to spend.’

“I couldn’t do that, and I left after just a few weeks. These machines are so addictive and they ruin lives.”

FOBTs have to be licensed by Fife Licensing Board, and its chairman, Councillor Bob Young, has vowed to raise the issue with members.

Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance said: “The majority of us won’t go near these machines. Those who do are usually the ones who can least afford it. Something must be done to change the law because these machines ruin lives.”