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"Shocking" figures reveal £410m gambling addiction in Newham

PUBLISHED: 11:00 09 January 2013 | UPDATED: 11:00 09 January 2013

A fixed point betting terminal (FOBT). Picture Ron Lamb

A fixed point betting terminal (FOBT). Picture Ron Lamb

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"Shocking" new figures reveal that over £410m was spent on gambling machines in Newham in the last 12 months.

The report, compiled by campaigning charity Fairer Gambling, showed there were 76 betting shops in the borough containing 277 fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

The machines offer customers - who can pay by cash, credit or debit card - a range of casino games allowing bets of up to £100 on 20 second cycles.

In Newham, the average betting shop with FOBTs takes around £5.5m, meaning each individual machine makes £1.5m.

Both of Newham’s MPs joined forces to condemn bookie blight as a financial drain on poorer communities, with MP for East Ham Stephen Timms referring to FOBTs as “the crack cocaine of gambling”.

Mr Timms said: “It is a truly shocking figure. We have 34 betting shops running these machines in my constituency – it’s far too many.

“Action needs to be taken urgently. The Government must give councils like Newham the power to refuse permission for more betting outlets in high streets.”

In West Ham - incidentally, the constituency with the fourth highest number of unemployment benefit claimants - there are 42 betting shops raking in £227m.

West Ham MP Lyn Brown said: “This is a wake-up call that we need to take action now. Across the country these machines are placed predominantly in areas where people are looking for work and struggling to make ends meet.

“Poorer communities are being targeted, and that is indefensible.

“Problem gambling and gambling addiction destroys livelihoods and breaks up families.

“I am already pursuing this issue with the Government to ensure that the four machine per betting shop cap is not lifted and local authorities are given the powers that they need to deal with this very worrying situation.”

Newham Council also backed the High Street First Campaign in May which calls for an end to a legal loophole enabling bookmakers to open premises without needing planning permission.

In a statement, the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) said: “The idea that bookmakers target vulnerable communities is both false and offensive.

“Like any other retailer, we locate our shops where footfall is high and rents are affordable. These factors vary, which explains there can be different numbers of shops in different parts of the country.”

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