Gambling addiction is on the rise in the UK, with many believing that this is down to the highly addictive fixed odds betting terminals. With countless gambling addicts not even realising that they are suffering from an addiction, they will continue to use these machines to gamble. As things currently stand, an individual could bet up to £100 every twenty seconds, which can have devastating consequences; not only for the individual but also for their loved ones who have to deal with the often life-shattering aftermath.

Stewart Kenny, the founder and ex-chief executive of Paddy Power, has made various admissions relating to these machines and their addictive nature, which has sparked a lot of controversy and talk among experts and the government.

Crack Cocaine of Gambling

Kenny has warned that high stakes betting machines are ‘addictive’ and that fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) are like the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ and are ‘particularly enticing to younger gamblers in disadvantaged areas’. He also added that the Treasury was ‘addicted’ to using these betting terminals as a way to rake in cash from vulnerable addicts.

Increased Pressure

Although these comments were made by Kenny in 2009 when the Irish government were considering the legalisation of FOBTs, they have just been revealed. He has since taken a step down from the board of Paddy Power. His accusations will increase pressure on the UK government to lay down stricter laws on these machines; currently, punters can gamble up to £1500 in just five minutes on these machines. It is estimated that bookmakers have raked in £1.75 billion from FOBTs in the past year alone. Kenny also added that the UK Treasury was as ‘addicted to the tax revenue as vulnerable customers are to losing money in them’.

No Public Demand

At the time, he said, “There is no public demand, other than from sections of the betting industry, for FOBTs to be legalised in Ireland. It is in no one’s interest, neither betting shop customers nor wider society. Let us learn from the mistake in the UK of allowing them into betting offices, once they are in it is impossible to get rid of them or even curb their more addictive elements.”

The Irish government made the decision not to legalise these machines in the end. In the UK, there are 34,000 FOBT machines, and Paddy Power Betfair own around 1,400 of these across 350 betting shops. It has been estimated that Paddy Power make approximately £1,373 every week from each machine they own.

Huge Debts

Recent figures have found that nearly a fifth of those who suffer from a gambling addiction in the UK have debts anywhere between £20,000 and £100,000; counselling and therapy sessions have increased by 29% between 2013 to 2014 and 2014 to 2015. Figures provided by the government also show that the gambling industry employed over 100,000 people in 2015 alone and gave back £10.3 billion to the economy due to Gordon Brown’s decision to remove the UK’s betting levy in 2001, putting in its place a 15% tax on bookmaker’s gross profits.

Immediate Action to Reduce Minimum Stakes

Tom Watson MP, Shadow Culture Secretary, said, “This admission by Stewart Kenny confirms the many, long-standing criticisms of fixed odds betting terminals. These highly addictive machines have become a huge problem for many communities up and down the country and have seen lives ruined, families broken up and the lives of betting shop staff put at risk as people struggle to cope with their losses. The Government must put the interests of working people first and take immediate action to reduce the maximum stake allowed for these machines from £100 to £2.”

Chair of the all-party parliamentary group on FOBTs, Carolyn Harris MP, said, “This admission is refreshing. The gambling industry should not be encouraging people to get involved in something they know carries a high risk of them losing all their money, and in many cases, their sanity because the addiction is driving them to desperate levels.”

Specialists in Dealing with Gambling Addiction

Many people have fallen victim to these FOBTs, and it is incredibly easy to do; once you start, it can be difficult to stop; this often leads to people developing a gambling addiction. If you think that you may have a gambling addiction and are unsure of how to tackle this problem, contact us here at Liberty House. We specialise in working with those who have a gambling problem, and we will work with you to ensure that you overcome. If you would like any more information or have any general enquiries, then do not hesitate to give us a call or an email and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

Source:  Founder of Paddy Power admitted high-stakes gambling machines are ‘addictive’ by likening them to ‘crack cocaine (