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Concern over the £65m cost of gambling in Oxfordshire
GAMBLERS put £180,000 into county betting machines every day last year.
New figures show more than £65m was fed into the machines in Oxfordshire, with £27m being spent in Oxford alone.
The statistics released by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling also reveal nearly £9m was lost to fixed-odds betting terminals in the county in 2013.
It comes as county MPs and Oxford City Council call for more powers to curb gambling machines and betting shops. There are more than 200 fixed-odds betting terminals in betting shops and arcades in Oxfordshire.
The machines allow gamblers to play casino-style games with a £100 maximum bet per spin.
Former gambling addict and campaigner Owen Baily, from South Oxford, said: “It is great that these figures have finally been published for it will demonstrate to the people of Oxfordshire that significant amounts of money are being spent.
“The prevalence of bookmakers in certain areas is a noticeable concern for many now and these clusters seem to appear in lesser well-off areas.
“Oxford has its own cluster in and around Barns Road, Cowley. There are two Betfreds, one Ladbrokes, one William Hill and a Shipleys amusement arcade.
“In contrast Oxford city centre has a handful of bookmakers but you will find that they are not clustered but spread thinly and located in more discreet locations.
“This pattern of bookmakers clustering in less well-off areas is seen throughout the country.”
Oxford City Council is among a number of local authorities calling on the Government to make changes to the law to make it easier for councils to refuse planning applications from bookmakers.
- Fixed-odds betting terminals in a betting shop Picture: Alex Segre/REX
Adrian Parkinson, a consultant for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, said the figures were estimates based on Gambling Commission figures and leaked betting shop data which included information about regional profits.
New measures were introduced in February to allow gamblers to set their own limits on time and money spent on the machines, with alerts after spending £250 or gambling for 30 minutes.
But the Campaign for Fairer Gambling is calling for the maximum stake on the machines to be cut to £2 a spin.
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said more needed to be done. He said: “With fixed-odds betting terminals being concentrated more in poorer areas, I strongly support stricter limits on the number of these terminals.
“Gambling addiction is an increasing problem, and I have received representations from constituents, including recently someone coming to my advice surgery, seeking tougher controls.
“All too often money is gambled which people can ill afford, with sometimes catastrophic results for families.”
Ladbrokes spokesman Ciaran O’Brien said: “The industry does not publish regional figures but typically more is spent on scratchcards or fixed-odds betting in an area than on machines in betting shops. Of course there are also machines in bingo halls and pubs too, where alcohol is served.”
He added: “We have no opposition to greater planning powers as long as they are not retrospective.”
Remote Gambling Association spokeswoman Sue Rossiter said eight per cent of gambling was now done online via computers and mobile phones. She said: “Gambling, like other forms of leisure activity, has changed and it reflects what happens in society.”
Association of British Bookmakers spokesman Peter Craske said: “Betting shops have been trading on the high street for over 50 years and gaming machines themselves have been played for over a decade – they are not a new product.
“In that time, they have certainly grown in popularity, and now account for about half of a betting shop’s business.
“Customers like the different amounts they can stake and the variety of games on offer. And while anti-betting shop campaigners may disapprove and come up with bizarre claims about what is being spent, we have eight million customers across the UK who enjoy our products.
“Industry data shows that the average customer spends about £7.55 and plays for about 8-10 minutes.
“We have recently introduced a new Code for Responsible Gambling and now, for the first time anywhere in the world, a customer can set a limit on the amount of time they play for or the money they spend.
“In addition, mandatory limits have also been introduced. When either limit is reached, then the games shut down.
“Betting shops have changed a lot over the last half century, and offer much more to customers than ever – from traditional betting on sports like horses and dogs, people now bet on live football matches, virtual racing or about who will win The X-Factor or Strictly, as well as playing games ranging from Deal or No Deal to roulette.
“The betting shops in Oxford employ 170 people, all of whom would see their livelihoods put at risk if anti-betting shop campaigners had their way.”
- For more on the campaign visit stopthefobts.org and for help with gambling addiction, call GamCare on 0808 8020133.
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