Gamblers in Corby lost almost £2.6m on fixed odds machines last year, new research suggests.
Campaigners say close to £13m was inserted into fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in Corby alone with expenditure on the machines contributing to an estimated 42 job losses.
The Northants Telegraph spoke to one gambler in Corby who had just played roulette on one of the machines, and wished only to be identified as Harry.
He said: “I play on the machines a few times a week but yeah, it can be dangerous.
“I’ve just won £40 but once I lost £250 in about half an hour, which is almost a week’s wages for me.
“They are a bit addictive and I’ve seen people get proper angry when they lose money.
“It’s like the thrill of the casino but it almost doesn’t seem like it’s real money.”
For anyone wanting to play one on of the machines in Corby, it’s not difficult.
William Hill, Betfred and Ladbrokes all have branches within 50 metres of each other, with the latter having nine of the machines in its store.
Currently the maximum stake is £100 – but this will be reviewed next month.
MP for Corby Tom Pursglove says it’s vital people are protected from being harmed by gambling.
He said: “I do visit bookmakers locally to try and understand what is being done to ensure responsible gambling.
“Indeed, most recently in June, I made a visit to the Ladbrokes shop in Corporation Street.
“I used this visit as an opportunity to discuss and learn more about the new measures and regulations which have been put in place to ensure greater protection for both customers and staff, and I will continue to monitor the situation closely, feeding back to ministers local experience as appropriate.
“It is vital that people, particularly the young and vulnerable, are protected from being harmed or exploited by gambling and I am encouraged that my colleagues in Government are committed to ensuring this continues.
“Responsibility for the oversight of advertising is shared between the Advertising Standards Authority, Ofcom and the Gambling Commission.
“In 2014, some of the provisions around advertising in this area were strengthened.
“However, I am pleased that the current review is also looking at gambling advertising to understand whether the right measures are in place to ensure that the young and vulnerable are protected.”
But it’s not just an issue facing Corby.
The figures, broken down by Parliamentary constituency, show it’s something affecting nearby Kettering and Wellingborough too.
In Kettering, gamblers inserted £11.45m into machines and lost £2.29m.
An estimated 37 people lost their jobs because of the money they spent on the machines.
In Wellingborough gamblers put £9.16m into the machines, losing £1.83m, although there are six fewer bookmakers.
In total more than £180m was gambled on machines in Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough combined – an average of £343 a minute.
A spokesman for Fairer Gambling, which carried out the research, said the machines are ‘causing havoc’ and the maximum stake must be reduced to £2.
The spokesman said: “These figures reveal the shocking scale of the havoc FOBTs are causing on Britain’s high streets.
“The bizarre experiment to allow high stakes casino gambling in betting shops has failed, causing significant harm to individuals, families and communities. Enough is enough.
“The Government must commit to reducing the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2 a spin when they respond to the review in October.”
But the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) says it does not recognise the figures and that people in Corby spend far more on other leisure activities.
A spokesman said: “The ABB does not recognise these figures which merely represent a rough calculation based on national figures and do not reflect the position in Corby.
“People choose to spend their money on a range of leisure pursuits including going to the cinema, eating out in restaurants or going to the pub.
“Far more will have been spent on most of these activities by people in Corby than has been spent on gambling in bookmakers.
“Nationally, gambling on machines in bookmakers represents just 13 per cent of the total money spent on gambling.”
The spokesman added that in Corby the average stake is £8 and the average customer playing time is just nine minutes.
Corby bookmakers pay an average of £10,000 per shop which funds local services and more than 60 staff are on hand to help anyone with a gambling problem.
The spokesman added: “The ABB strongly encourages all those engaging in gambling activities to gamble responsibly and in Corby bookmakers employ more than 60 highly trained staff to provide help to anyone getting into difficulties with their gambling.
“Gaming machines in betting shops have a range of responsible gambling measures that are not replicated in other venues such as amusement arcades.”
Do you think FOBTs are a problem? Get in touch and have your say by emailing email@example.com