More than £5bn was gambled on high-speed, high-stakes gambling machines in northern England cities and London boroughs with high levels of unemployment last year – four times the amount bet in richer rural areas in southern England where jobless numbers are low, according to an analysis for the Guardian.
The report reveals that in the 50 parliamentary constituencies with the highest numbers of unemployed people, punters visited 1,251 betting shops and put £5.6bn into 4,454 so-called fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). By comparison, the 50 constituencies with the lowest levels of unemployment had only 287 betting shops and 1,045 terminals, and saw £1.4bn gambled last year.
The figures, produced for Fairer Gambling – a non-profit organisation which campaigns against problem betting, run by a gambling expert who helped bring the casino-style fixed odds machines to the UK high street – appear to show that bookmakers have deliberately targeted the poorest areas with the highest unemployment and poverty. It is a charge the industry vigorously rejects.