Staggering sum of Britain’s gambling losses revealed

Britons lost £12.6 billion pounds gambling last year, according to new data by the Gambling Commission.

The figure is equivalent to almost £300 for every adult in the country.

Controversial Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) also wreaked their highest financial toll to date, with gamblers losing a record £1.71 billion.

Crackdown needed

The unchecked expansion of the gambling industry in recent years has led to calls for a crackdown, with opponents citing a rise in mental health problems, family breakdown and crime.

GamCare, a charity which helps people with gambling problems, has seen a 20 per cent increase in calls to its helpline over the last five years.

Divorce Online, a site which logs uncontested divorce petitions, has revealed that gambling is cited in one in five petitions as a reason for the dissolution of the marriage.

And last year the Metropolitan Police recorded an eleven per cent rise in violent incidents in bookmakers.

Lives ruined

The proliferation of FOBTs, known as the crack cocaine of gambling, has been considered particularly harmful, especially as they are concentrated in deprived areas.

FOBTs allow gamblers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on games such as roulette and blackjack, ruining lives and livelihoods within minutes.

Earlier this year, an investigation by The Times highlighted alarming personal stories of people affected by the machines.

Debt

Speaking about his experiences, Joseph said when he was just 21 he had debts of £12,000, rising to £25,000 by the time he was 25. Now he is striving to pay back a debt which will ‘tie him down for the next five years’.

He said he got “hooked on FOBT machines instantly” which led to “a life of misery” and “ruined relationships with friends and family”.

Carl told The Guardian that he once had to walk five miles home because he had lost all his money on FOBTs.

“You get lost in your own little world and have tunnel vision, nothing matters only that next spin whatever the consequences”, he said.

Addiction

The Times investigation also found that the NHS has started prescribing drugs to the worst addicts.

The Cabinet Office blocked a review of the machines last year. In 2015, FOBTs raised £425 million for the Treasury through taxation.

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