Islington residents losing more than £14m a year on betting terminals

Director Frankie Graham and trustee Jennie Rooney, right, launch BetKnowMore to help fight against t

Director Frankie Graham and trustee Jennie Rooney, right, launch BetKnowMore to help fight against the rise of gambling addiction in the borough. - Credit: Archant

An investigation by The Campaign for Fairer Gambling has revealed a rise in the use of betting machines in London

The lead candidate in the race to be London Mayor has voiced his opposition to the controversial Fixed Odd Betting Terminals (FOBT) that have costed Islington residents more than £14m last year in losses.

Sadiq Khan, MP for Tooting, has lent his support to The Campaign for Fairer Gambling in giving local councils greater powers to control the number of betting shops opened in their area and to be able to reduce the stake on FOBTs from the current £100 to £2.

Mr Khan’s intervention comes after a shocking investigation by The Campaign for Fairer Gambling into the use of FOBTs in London boroughs revealed vast profits being made by corporate bookmakers.

Across the capital Londoners inserted almost £2.5 billion into the machines last year, losing nearly £468m.

In 2014, Islington residents inserted nearly £75m into FOBTs, and losing more than £14m. Islington came closely behind the boroughs of Lambeth and Lewisham.

Mr Khan, the former Communities minister said, “We need to make a difference to people’s lives in Islington by giving councillors the powers to crackdown on this blight.

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“The explosion in the use of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals over the last decade and the sheer amount of money being lost in them is a cause for deep concern.

“We already knew that bookies were targeting the desperate and vulnerable by deliberately setting-up shop in deprived communities, but now we know just how much money they’re extracting from the people they prey on.”

Under the Gambling Act 2005, betting shops are allowed to have up to four FOBT’s on their premises.

Frankie Graham, Director of BetKnowMoreUK, a social enterprise which opened in Islington last year offering support for people with gambling addictions, said: “We opened our branch in Islington because it’s a small borough with high levels of mental health, drug and alcohol problems, alongside deprivation.

“And gambling falls into this mix.

“Most of the clients who use our services, if not all of them, have used FOBTs, which cause horrendous problems.

“I firmly believe that more awareness of the potential dangers of using these machines and increased funding for gambling support services are badly needed.”

A spokesperson for The Campaign for Fairer Gambling said: “The increasing clustering and proliferation of betting shops and FOBTs across London is a major issue that the next mayor of London will need to tackle.

“The issue is getting worse with an 80 per cent increase in the number of betting shops now located in town centres and major high streets across London boroughs.”