Big money betting machines ‘are hitting tourism’

Fixed odds betting terminals are damaging Blackpool, it has been claimed
Fixed odds betting terminals are damaging Blackpool, it has been claimed
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The lack of control over addictive gambling machines that suck in millions of pounds each year is hurting tourism in Blackpool, it has been claimed.

The resort has one of the biggest problems of any area in the country with fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), which reportedly allow people to bet as much as £100 in 20 seconds.

But, despite fears raised after it emerged more than £160m was wagered on the machines in Blackpool in a year, plans to give councils more power to limit their use were voted down by MPs last week.

Speaking in parliament, one MP highlighted the resort as one of the places most likely to lose out because of the decision.

York Central MP Hugh Bayley said: “I do not believe that the proliferation of high-street gambling in these tourist destinations is good for tourism.

“For tourist towns as well as the deprived areas, this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.”

His views have been echoed by Coun John Jones, who had campaigned against the machines because of the problems they cause in his Bloomfield ward.

He said: “You shouldn’t be having these machines in uncontrolled environments.

“I am very disappointed that the government did not go with the Labour proposals.

“In particularly deprived areas these establishments are opening up in large numbers.”

Coun Jones added that the heavy losses inflicted on gamblers do not act as a good advert for the resort.

He said: “It will be off-putting if people come here on their holidays and lose a large amount of money.

“The machines should be banned from betting shops and they should be in an environment that is controlled.”

According to the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, there are 157 of the machines in Blackpool, across the Blackpool North and Blackpool South constituencies.

It claims a total of £168m is gambled on them a year, netting bookmakers more than £5m.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Bayley said: “Members of all parties have rightly pointed out that the top 10 per cent of constituencies with the highest use of, and with the highest profits taken from, FOBTs are largely in deprived areas, although they are not all in those areas.

“I would like to mention a group of places in the top 10 per cent that I would call tourist destinations.

“They include my constituency of York Central, Blackpool South, Brighton Pavilion, Bournemouth West, Cambridge, Great Yarmouth, Kensington, Norwich North, Oxford East, Torbay and the two Westminster constituencies.”

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