By Ian Dipple Friday 25 January 2013 Updated: 25/01 12:48
AN INCREASE in the number of high stakes gaming machines in betting shops is bringing casino style gambling onto the high street a borough councillor has warned.
Coun Carole Gandy voiced concerns about the dangers of the increase in Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT), as Redditch Borough Council approved a new set of principles which will govern the way it regulates gambling over the next three years.
The touch screen machines allow users to bet on a variety of games, with the most popular being roulette. Users can place up to £100 every 20 seconds, which has led them to be dubbed the 'crack cocaine of gambling'.
Although regulations impose a limit of four per betting shop, research by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling (CFG) shows some companies are getting around the rules by opening up as many shops as possible, leading to claims of clustering, particularly in poorer areas.
In 2011/12 punters gambled more than £26.5million on the 25 high stakes machines in the borough's seven betting shops.
Coun Gandy said the Government needed to be aware regulations based on the 2005 law may be insufficient to deal with the changing way people gambled and the social problems it caused.
"I can't see anything in here that makes me feel better about this recent increase in the number of high stakes, fixed odds gaming machines which is quite dangerous," she told a recent full council meeting.
"A lot of high stakes gambling which usually takes place in casinos is moving on to the high street and it's not something we would want to encourage.
"Gambling today bears no resemblance to what it was in 2005."
The CFG is calling for the limit on the machines to be reduced to just £2 and the play time between games to be increased.
The Government recently ordered a three month review into the link between the machines and problem gambling as well as the maximum stake and prize limits on offer.
A spokesman for the Association of British Bookmakers said they welcomed the chance for an evidence based debate around electronic gaming machines. He said there was no proven link between problem gambling and the machines and the idea bookmakers targeted vulnerable areas was false and offensive.
"We acknowledge there is some public concern around the issue. However, much of this has been fuelled by reports based upon a 'corrupted' use of data and the generation of myths and half-truths," he said.
"Like any other retailer, we locate our shops where footfall is high and rents are affordable.
"As businesses, we take our social responsibilities extremely seriously which is why we voluntarily contribute £5m each year for the research, education and treatment of problem gamblers."
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