Councillors set to discuss Medway's gambling addiction with regulators
By MariaSoleil | Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 13:33
MEDWAY councillors will soon meet with gambling regulators to voice their concerns about betting machines dubbed the "crack cocaine of gambling".
Councillors will meet with the Gambling Commission later this months to discuss the growth in addiction to betting in Medway (Photo: Andres Rueda | Flickr)
A total of £200m is bet every year across Medway, and in a display of cross-party unity, councillors will meet with the Gambling Commission amid concerns bookmakers are targeting people on low incomes.
The biggest worry for councillors is the growing use of touch screen betting machines and fixed odd terminals - which have a variety of different gambling games - with roulette being the most popular.
The time between spins of the roulette wheel is about 20 seconds and it is possible to bet up to £100 a time – or up to £18,000 an hour.
Cllr Mike O'Brien, portfolio holder for community safety and customer contact, said: "If you aren't familiar with bookmaker's shops, you may not know how easy it is to gamble very large amounts of money in seconds on these machines.
"We are worried because these machines are highly addictive and can leave people in serious financial trouble very quickly.
"The council has a duty to ensure safe gambling in our area, and there are allegations that there are more than twice as many betting shops in areas of high unemployment than in areas of low unemployment.
"The influx of betting shops, often in more deprived areas, is blighting our high streets. I'm pleased this has attracted cross party support, and I look forward to working with all my colleagues in striving to removing this scourge from our community."
Following a cabinet meeting on 18 December in which the increase of gambling shops in Medway was discussed, councillors agreed to meet with the Gambling Commission on 31 January to raise their concerns.
Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Vince Maple, added: "These machines are hugely lucrative, with a shocking £200m bet each year across Medway, most often by people who can least afford to lose money through gambling, and it is clear that bookmakers specifically target poorer communities.
"Figures produced for the organisation Fairer Gambling show that where unemployment is high, people are betting four times as much as people in richer areas, and so bookmakers tend to cluster here."
In fact, Gillingham along has 12 licensed betting shops and 44 fixed odds betting terminals.
Cllr Maple continued: "It is very easy for one person to lose thousands of pounds in a matter of minutes, which is why we want to make sure more is done to safeguard against the huge financial risk that fixed odds betting terminals represent."