New wave of bad press for betting machines
Adrian Parkinson's anti-FOBT action group Campaign for Fairer Gambling launched a new wave of negative publicity on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals last week, apparently unimpressed with industry moves to tighten restrictions on use following extensive media and political comment — much of it flowing from an earlier CFG release of statistics.
The action group released a new set of geographically specific FOBT stats on Tuesday, with momentum building in regional media across Britain as the campaign analysed individual regions and how much money was staked through FOBTs…and how much was lost.
Media coverage by the weekend was extensive as publications covered numbers particular to their regions.
The campaign makes extensive use of the negative descriptive "crack cocaine of gambling" and plays to a theme that betting companies are targeting deprived areas where unemployment is high and incomes are low.
The campaign claims that individual UK gamblers lose an average GBP 760 every year on FOBTs, with some areas reporting an average twice that.
MP's seeing a political opportunity to comment within their constituencies have been quick to criticise High Street betting shops offering FOBTs in the wake of the new CFG numbers. In one example, Slough MP Fiona Mactaggart said:
"These machines are addictive and dangerous. The average loss per player is equivalent to one month's take home pay for the average worker in our town. This is unaffordable. It can be devastating for families who, because of gambling, are unable to afford basic necessities."
CFG's voluble spokesman Parkinson has also been widely quoted on the figures; he claims that CFG mapping gives individual councils the ability to see the impact of FOBTs across their particular areas of responsibility, helping them to "…see through the smoke screen the bookmakers are trying to create with their new code of conduct."
Parkinson has also been giving newspapers bite-sized comments applicable to their individual regions, for example:
"Bookmakers claim betting shops in less deprived areas are eight times more profitable than those in deprived areas but we don't see them opening shops there. Instead, they are clustering on the high streets of deprived areas.
"Why are there only 21 betting shops in Aberdeenshire while North Lanarkshire has 87?
"It's up to councillors and politicians to get to grips with this problem before Scotland's high streets descend into a toxic economy of betting shops and payday loan operators."
A seemingly exasperated Association of British Bookmakers responded to the latest CFG drive by characterising the action group's figures as 'misleading and inaccurate'.
ABB chief Dirk Vennix, said: "The industry is sick and tired of the campaign group sniping at it from the sidelines. Instead of attacking a responsible and regulated industry which is trying to work collaboratively with the government to minimise problem gambling, they should join the process to help build the best possible harm minimisation framework."
Ironically, Parkinson allegedly used to promote FOBT's for betting company Tote.
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