Reino Unido: Mais de um terço dos jogadores de máquinas de apostas têm problemas com o jogo

More than a third of people playing high-speed, high-stakes betting machines experience problems with their gambling, according to industry-funded research released on Wednesday. The study involving 4,000 gamblers, which...

More than a third of people playing high-speed, high-stakes betting machines experience problems with their gambling, according to industry-funded research released on Wednesday.

The study involving 4,000 gamblers, which was commissioned by the Responsible Gambling Trust, revealed alarmingly high levels of problem gambling with high-stakes.

FOBTs have been dubbed by critics as the “crack cocaine of gambling” because they allow stakes of £100 to be laid every 20 seconds on casino games.

The researchers found that 37% of respondents experience “problems with machine gambling” somewhere between “some of the time” to “almost always”. This compares to a problem gambling rate of 0.4% for all adults, according to 2012 government health studies.

NatCen also found that the players who frequent the UK’s 9,000 betting shops were likely to be poor, jobless and not white. Bookmakers rely on the revenue from the country’s machines, which take £1.5bn from punters.

Campaigners point out that the data showed that these problem gamblers were depositing huge amounts of cash – £1,200 a week – into the machines. This from a group where a third of men had incomes of less than £10,400 a year.


Adrian Parkinson of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, who is a former industry executive, said the study raised questions over where the money for gambling was coming from: “We’ve long argued that drug dealers who start money-laundering to legitimise their criminal earnings on FOBTs, especially the younger ones very quickly get drawn into the addictive nature of high-stake roulette play. Combined with welfare payments there is a strong case that these machines are taking both illicit money and that of the state welfare system.”

NatCen said “not all problem gamblers had very low incomes” but added that it was the case that “disproportionately more problem gamblers had low incomes than non-problem gamblers”.

The temptation of high-speed, high-stake casino games in the high street proved irresistible: there are now about 33,000 FOBTs in the UK – a decade ago there were barely any.

A growing number of local authorities say they have seen a rise in the number of bookies opening in high streets, helped by the profitability of the machines coupled with planning laws that make it difficult to prevent their development.

Newham council in east London is calling for the maximum stake on the machines to be lowered from £100 to £2 – and has gathered backing from a quarter of all local authorities in England. It pointed out that in the 55 most deprived areas of England, there are double the number of betting shops, compared to the 115 most affluent localities.

NatCen indicate that the results have to be interpreted with some caution as the respondents were all part of a loyalty card programme – and this group “were heavily engaged in gambling”. However City analysts have already raised concerns over the research. They said that the government would have to intervene because the research showed that the industry’s attempts to self-regulate did not go far enough.

City bank JP Morgan pointed out that given at least one in four were “problem gamblers” it estimates “at least 10% of machine revenue could come from problem gamblers”. As this was “significant proportion”, the analysts said, ministers would have to recommend a system where play is monitored on the machines and punters prevented from gambling too much.

At present the industry claims that problem gamblers could be halted by putting a warning message on the screens of the machines every time a game is played for longer than 30 minutes. However the research makes it plain this is too long to stop harmful behaviour. The study states: “high harmful gambling action and consequence scores had shorter session lengths, on average, than others: their average session length was around 13 minutes compared with around 18 minutes for other groups”.

Heather Wardle of NatCen said that there was “no question” of links between deprivation, race, unemployment and gambling patterns. She however said that the 4,000 people surveyed were not entirely representative of all gamblers, and that this would “skew the data”.

She added that the high levels of problem gambling did reflect the findings of a very small sample survey in 2010. “Unfortunately, we don’t know enough about non-loyalty card holders to be able to weight the estimates back to a population estimate,” she said.

“Given that this sample is skewed to those who are most highly engaged in gambling, the figures are broadly commensurate with what you might expect. For example, a 2010 gambling survey estimated that 13% of those who played machines on a monthly basis were problem gamblers.”

An Association of British Bookmakers spokesperson said: “The industry welcomes the findings of this report and we will now use this evidence to help determine how the industry can further help those customers who may be at risk …

“We are pleased that this research has deliberately focused on regular gamblers, rather than the general population. Some of our members are already using gaming machine customer data to identify potential problems and, thereby better targeting customer interventions.”

This article was amended on 11 December 2014 to correct the headline. The earlier version said “More than a third of users of fixed-odds betting terminals are problem gamblers”.

Source: The Guardian