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FOBTs in deprived areas - even more proof

FOBTs in deprived areas - even more proof

Campaign for Fairer Gambling | Campaign for Fairer Gambling

4 min read Partner content

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling calls for an end to bookmakers opening betting shops in deprived areas, targeting areas of high unemployment with a high ethnic mix

Independent research disproves claims betting shops only open in deprived areas” claimed the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) last year in response to Campaign research and mapping which showed twice as many betting shops operated in the 55 most deprived local authorities compared to more affluent areas.

Last week the Responsible Gambling Trust published a report carried out by Geofutureswhich not only rebutted the ABB claims, but also confirmed what Newham and 92 other Councils across England and Wales have been saying, that they are being targeted by a predatory betting industry.

With the ever present caveat of “no causal link”, the report confirmed that “areas close to betting shops tend towards higher levels of crime events, and resident deprivation, unemployment, and ethnic diversity” and when specifically looking at FOBT players they said “players overall tend to live in neighbourhoods with higher levels of resident unemployment, multiple deprivation and economic inactivity, and which are more ethnically diverse than the national average.”

Even when analysing town centres, anomalies were noted in the locations of betting shops with a significant variation in the distribution rate of betting shops producing a skew “where a few town centres have very high rates.” This skew towards certain areas also produced results showing a “predominance of residents aged in their 20s… highlighting a local population with access to machines where people in their 20s may be heavily represented.” Just the demographic that FOBTs appeal to.

Added to these multiple demographic factors is the further conclusion that “there is a strong prevalence of non-white minority ethnic groups in close proximity to betting shop locations” with Asian or Asian British groups particularly significant. This week comes the revelation that 201 of Paddy Power’s 327 UK betting shops have been strategically opened in the 40 Local Authorities with the highest proportion of non-white ethnic groups. The GeoFutures research confirms a historical association between betting shops, deprivation and ethnicity, but the Campaign’s latest research shows that new entrants to the market like Paddy Power are deliberately targeting these areas.

Just as we said in 2013 when our first analysis of betting shops was published showing higher numbers of betting shops and amounts gambled on FOBTs in areas of high unemployment, this research has confirmed the same, noting that “a significant national pattern emerges of higher numbers of claimants in proximity to betting shops compared to urban and national areas on the whole.”

So despite the denials and the accusation that anyone making these claims is an “anti-betting shop campaigner” the bookmakers have again been shown to have manipulated and distorted their “independent evidence”. This is an alarmingly common theme for the bookmakers when it comes to protecting FOBTs and one that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) falls for every time. Previous Special Advisers at DCMS were not so reluctant to express their view on bookmaker commissioned and funded research!

DCMS are the only ones who appear to be under the influence of the bookmakers’ manipulative and misleading campaign to defend FOBTs. Those on the receiving end of the predatory behaviour being displayed by the 5 largest betting operators aren’t fooled at all and their demands for action are now going deeper than just a call to cut stakes.

Proposals under the Smith Commission for greater devolved powers over FOBTsto Scotland include varying the number of FOBTs allowed in all new betting shops. Both Scottish Labourand the SNP have now confirmed they will use this power to implement a zero cap on FOBTs in all new betting shops, effectively banning anymore. The conversation in Scotland has now moved on to asking how they deal with the existing issue of betting shops and FOBT clustering.

The Local Government Association which represents Councils in England and Wales at a national level has made its decision and as well as calling for a £2 cap on FOBTs, they have now demanded that the same powers proposed for Scotland are granted to Local Authorities– that they too can implement a zero cap on these contentious gaming machines.

For the last 14 years the bookmakers have behaved like predators stalking the high street looking for prime sites to position the UK’s most addictive gambling product and have all pounced into the same deprived, high unemployment and high ethnic mix areas. Now though Councils, regional executives, political parties, politicians and the media are circling the bookmakers preparing to deal with FOBTs once and for all. But first they need to tackle a DCMS Secretary of State who is more interested in his career than being the minister who finally laid FOBTs to rest. Let’s not forget the DCMS junior minister responsible for gambling who can’t answer a question on FOBTs or gambling without having a civil servant act as her ventriloquist.

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