St Helens gamblers lose £140m

Gambling campaigner Adrian Parkinson
Gambling campaigner Adrian Parkinson
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Gamblers in St Helens have spent a massive £140m on controversial gambling machines in the past year.

Fairer gambling campaigner expert Adrian Parkinson disclosed the shock figures on behalf of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, which aims to ban the machines known as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).

The figures - which can be viewed on an interactive map on the campaign’s website - show that £140,414,062 was spent on 126 machines in the borough in 2012/13.

The amount spent is worked out by taking the number of bookmaker licences with an active status in the borough, the number of FOBTs in the borough and the income generated by them, based on average industry figures.

Mr Parkinson, who worked for the Tote and is spokesman for the Fairer Gambling organisation was involved in launching fixed-odds betting terminals from 1999 until 2008.

He described the machines as the crack-cocaine of gambling when he launched his campaign last year.

Earlier this year he and the campaign put pressure on local authorities, including neighbouring Wigan Council to move a motion condemning legislation which gives them no control over how many betting shops are opened in the borough or any regulation over FOBTs.

Liverpool and Manchester’s local authorities have already moved the motion.

Now Mr Parkinson and the group have produced an interactive map showing how many FOBTs are in every town and city in the UK and the costs associated with them.

Mr Parkinson said: “Our 2013 mapping has shown a surge in betting shops of which St Helens itself has seen an increase last year with the opening of new shops in the town centre.

“Across the country 288 extra shops have been opened and towns like St Helens will see more this year unless the Government acts.

“But more worryingly is the increasing prevalence of fixed odds betting terminals which are highly addictive. It’s these machines driving the proliferation of betting shops.

“I spend time travelling across the country and see first hand town centres saturated with betting shops and FOBTs. Wigan is heading the same way.

“Some 61 councils across the country have joined together calling on the Government to give them powers to curb the problem, even ban the machines. All council needs to join this group and start putting pressure on politicians to act before our town centre descends into a toxic economy of betting and pay day loan shops.”