Residents of Lewisham lost more than £14 million last year thanks to a growing number of high speed gambling machines at local betting shops.
Of the £75,946,646 inserted into these machines last year, £14,429,863 had been lost, according to research from the Campaign for Fair Gambling (CFFG), a group combatting fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT)
Fixed odds betting terminals are gambling machines found in bookmakers that allow users to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds.
Professor Jim Orford, Mark Griffiths and Heather Wardle, of CFFG, estimate that there are 2,070 problem gamblers in Lewisham, each of which lost £5,771,938 to FOBTs in Lewisham last year.
This is equivalent to £2,788 lost annually for each person.
Joe Dromey, Cabinet Member for Policy and Performance in the London Borough of Lewisham, said: “I’m concerned about the risk of addiction to these machines and by the scale of money they are taking from people”
“It is deeply concerning that they cluster in more deprived areas like Lewisham. I would like to restrict the number of these machines in our communities. Yet the Government have not given us as a Council sufficient powers to do so.”
“It would take someone living off the average wage in Lewisham over a month to earn the amount being lost to problem gamblers each year.
“This money is being sucked out of our community and it can lead to serious financial hardship,” Dromey explains.
According to CFFG, the betting model of these shops has shifted and now much of their income comes from FOBTs, rather than sports betting, accounting for more than 50% of betting shop revenues.
Dromey is concerned that they are not only “highly addictive” but their popularity and profitability has led in large part to a “clustering” of bookies in the area, calling the machines the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling.
Research by CFFB show there are 63 betting shops in Lewisham alone, with a total of 227 FOBTs housed inside.
Many of these betting shops can be found in places with higher levels of deprivation such as Lewisham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Southwark and Croydon.