Shock new figures have revealed that an average of £1212 per person was spent on fixed odds gambling machines in Kirkcaldy last year.
And the statistic has prompted the chairman of the Fife Licensing Board to call for action to end the misery and heartbreak gambling addiction can lead to.
The figures show that the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency had one of the highest gambling figures in Scotland for fixed odds betting terminals per head of population.
They were calculated by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling using information from the Gambling Commission and the Office for National Statistics.
The campaigners claim that the shock figures are due to bookmakers targeting the poorer areas where fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) are most popular.
Councillor Bob Young, chairman of the Fife Licensing Board, on hearing of the figures from the Press, said: “I find these figures absolutely staggering and heartbreaking because of the despair they can lead to among families.
“This is over £1200 per person that could be going to far better things, and it is an issue that I will be taking up when the board resumes after the New Year break.’’
He said a major concern was the attraction of such machines to young people. “It’s very easy to become addicted to these machines, or any form of gambling which is so easy nowadays with all the online sites, and is very difficult to regulate.”
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling said: “Bookmakers are coalescing around areas that are more profitable in terms of FOBTs and moving out of other areas where they are not as appealing.”
Gordon Brown MP, said: “No one should object to a betting shop or two on the high street but it is estimated the number of fixed-odds terminals in the UK has risen to 33,000 and because these machines can be addictive – they’ve been called the “crack cocaine” of gambling – that is causing concern for the havoc they can instigate for household budgets.
“The Scottish Parliament should consider planning and licensing laws to give Councils control over the number of betting shops in their area and over the number of machines in each shop. There is a case also for longer breaks between plays and pop-up warnings to stop desperate gamblers being able to spend as much £300 in just one minute.”
However a spokesman for Ladbrokes, one of the country’s leading bookmakers, said: “These numbers have little basis on reality as does the myth that bookmakers target the poor. Our shops are largely based on being on High Streets where there is high footfall and where they can cater for the millions of people who enjoy betting as a leisure pursuit. The recent health surveys in the UK have shown that gambling is less prevalent in deprived areas.
“We take our responsibility to providing a safe and enjoyable experience for our customers and employees very seriously and resent some of the allegations and specious statistics and data used to demonise it. Betting is generally a pastime which provides fun for its customers and employment and revenue for the communities in which they are based.”