What is the problem with betting shops?

Since changes in the UK gambling laws in 2005, betting shops have opened up in clusters in almost every town in the country, and since the law changed betting shops and casinos are now allowed to advertise more openly.

What is the problem with the betting shops?   

Many people still perceive betting shops to be places where only a few ageing men go to place bets on horses, but since 2005 this is certainly not the case.

The founder of the Neuroliberation campaign, Ben Thacker, had personally experienced the destructive nature of betting shops and fixed odds betting terminals during a three year gambling addiction (see his story on the blog).

After spending hours in betting shops every day, Ben witnessed their destructive nature and how they are ruining lives, mainly due to machines called ‘fixed odds betting terminals’ (FOTP). It is the roulette games on these machines that are getting our nation hooked on gambling, but people can also play electronic slots on them too, along with other electronic betting games.

PR consultants in the gambling industry won’t tell you this, but betting shops have become social centres for the financially frustrated and have become a breeding ground for depression, anxiety, homelessness and family breakdowns.

Some are open from as early as 8.30am and until as late as 11pm, although the majority of betting shops are open from around 9.30am until 9.30pm.

One of the biggest problems with gambling addictions and betting shops is that the addiction can be very easily hidden from friends and family of the addict. This means that problems can go on for longer without help and intervention, and also that addicts can more easily lie about where they have been or how they have lost all of their money.

The gambling industry claims that only a minute percentage of people gambling go on to develop an addiction, but from first-hand experience Ben found that this was not at all the case. People of all ages enter these places and get sucked in rapidly.

It is certainly not uncommon to see eighteen year old lads struggling to get off these machines, losing every penny they had and constantly feeding the machine. It isn’t uncommon to see stressed-out thirty-odd year olds swearing, spitting and punching the machines as they lose their money and struggle to break their habit. These are events that happen regularly each day in a lot of betting shops around the country.

People from all walks of life are feeding all their money to these machines; unemployed, builders, taxi drivers, students and even people that run their own businesses.

The cost to the individuals and their families lives does not have a price tag.

The financial cost to mental health services, social services, the police, homeless services and the NHS is still unclear, as most of the research on gambling addiction given to the government has come from the gambling industry. But with public funding for these services being slashed, can our nation afford to carry such a weight on its shoulders?

The fixed odds betting terminals have a huge effect on mental health, not just for an addict but for anybody that plays them. The underlying mental stress from playing these machines can lead to anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, rage, aggression, delusional thinking, loss of humour… the list goes on.

When you look into the individual stories and cases from doctors and lawyers who have worked with clients with gambling addictions, the effects down the line can lead to abuse, murder, suicide and neglect.

For every one addicted gambler on average a further eight people are somehow effected by the gamblers problem; children, partners, friends, employers, etc. With the gambling industry attempting to glamorise gambling, this has massive effects on the social strength of our communities.

How does it make sense to both cut services that heal people, and promote services that destroy them?