You can’t have missed the General Election buzz ramping up over the last few weeks. But while the national issues have been grabbing the headlines – it’s the local issues which, like any other year, will win this General Election. After all, a General Election is effectively 650 local elections – with each seat worth more than ever when the propensity for another hung Parliament is so high.
Community issues, the future of high streets, planning negotiations, protecting the vulnerable – they’re all going to be high on the list of issues as incumbent MPs and PPCs canvass for votes in their constituencies.
The Campaign has been working hard for the past year to make FOBTs an issue in Parliament, but now it’s down to local communities to speak up and let their future representatives know just how their constituency is affected by high-speed, high-stakes FOBT gambling – and the proliferation of betting shops they cause.
Whilst the Campaign does not expect a great deal of national coverage on FOBTs during the General Election campaign, there is already a strong swell of support among the regional press – highlighting the issues that FOBTs cause at a grass roots level.
This month, the Campaign released updated FOBT estimates for 2014 – and while London Mayor Boris Johnson’s backing of a stake reduction grabbed the headlines, there were many more regional stories sharing their collective outrage at the amount gambled and lost on their home turf.
The press in
North Wales reported that its region pumped £280 million into FOBT machines, losing over £10 million, whilst the
Coventry media told of gamblers putting £40 million into the machines, losing a worrying £8 million.
Further north, Wigan gamblers also piled
£40 million into the machines, with punters losing an estimated £1,600 each. Surrey FOBT players lost £24 million,
with nearly £1.7m being inserted into the controversial machines every day. This was also reported by
The Haslemere online. Meanwhile in the Wirral,
£60 million was gambled on FOBT machines.
It goes on. The Lincolnshire Echo reported that the
East Midlands has lost £76 million on the machines, whereas more than
£99.5 million has been gambled at betting shops across Dacorum, over £18 million of which was inserted into FOBT machines. This was also reported in the
Hemel Today online.
Across the border,
The Herald Scotland online and The Glasgow Evening Times both reported the latest estimates from the Campaign, which showed £158 million was lost on FOBT machines in Scotland, of which
£61 million came from those with gambling issues.
Campaign Consultant Matt Zarb-Cousin then took to the airwaves, appearing on
BBC Hereford & Worcester and
BBC Three Counties Radio show to discuss FOBTs. This appearance was followed by Peter Craske of the ABB, who faced some very tough questions about the Campaign’s estimates from presenter Iain Lee.
The Sheffield Star told of how gamblers in its area
lost £12 million on the addictive betting machines, while the
Crawley Newsreported that the local council was powerless to stop any more additions to its 18 current betting shops.
The Runcorn and Widnes Newstold of Halton gamblers losing £3.4m on FOBTs, shortly followed by a spread in the
Chorley Guardian– which reported that £182m was gambled on the roulette machines across Lancashire. This was also reported in the
Lancashire Evening Post.
The West Midlands was alerted to the issue by the Express and Star– revealing that a shocking £112m was lost in the region, while the
Gloucestershire Echocould not believe how much money South West gamblers lost on FOBTs. In Wandsworth, the council leader even dubbed the terminals
The Liverpool Echoled with the news that £40m had been lost in the area by problem gamblers, while the
Western Morning Newsreported that bookmakers made an estimated £32m from South West addicts in 2014.
The Campaign expects many more regional stories over the coming weeks and months – all of which will add weight to the argument that FOBTs, betting shop proliferation, money laundering and antisocial behaviour are General Election issues for many, many constituencies. This is not political posturing, these are real issues that affect the very real electorate.
These are among the many local issues that will win this General Election – politicians ignore them at their peril.