Panorama shows the damage done by FOBTs

07/11/2012

The awaited Panorama programme focusing on FOBTs finally aired at prime time on Monday evening and – despite some flaws – offered a shocking insight into the effects of these machines on players.

The programme showed footage of players becoming violent after losing large sums of money in betting shops. Presenter Sophie Raworth spoke to a number of gambling addicts, one of whom – a seemingly respectable bank worker – had stolen his clients’ money and ended up in jail.

The most damaging allegations appeared to be from some of the staff working in the shops themselves, who admitted that ‘people known to have obvious gambling problems are allowed to sit there and gamble’, and also that their bosses tell them to turn a ‘blind eye’ to aggressive behaviour unless they knew the perpetrators by name. This was of course denied spokesmen from William Hill and Betfred.

There were claims that FOBTs turn normal gamblers into problem gamblers with even staff working in the shops becoming addicted themselves. The Association of British Bookmakers claimed that there’s no empirical evidence to support this.

The programme then moved on to the rapid expansion of online gambling and claimed this was making the problem worse. Sophie Raworth asked why the technology used to track player behaviour couldn’t be better used to help protect players who have potential problems with their gambling.

At this point, the programme looked at the work of Gamcare and the funding that comes from the industry in the form of Responsible Gambling Trust and questioned whether this was fit for purpose. It talked about the Gambling Prevalence Survey and mentioned that the Government had cut funding so there was uncertainty on the exact figures of problem gamblers in the UK.

Following the programme, Clive Efford MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Sport and Gambling, said: “Panorama has highlighted concern around violence in betting shops associated with fixed odds betting terminals.”

“It is a warning that something needs to be done to protect consumers and workers. The government must act with urgency and review the regulations.”

The full programme can be viewed here: http://fairergambling.org/watch-bbc-ones-panorama-programme-gambling-nation/

Extra reporting thanks to Sian Harding

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