The government can’t take a chance on gambling industry addictions

Labour is planning to force a vote in parliament to give councils the power to ban high stakes roulette machines from bookmakers shops. Ed Miliband even stating that these shops are turning into ‘mini casinos’ through the use of fixed odds betting terminals (such as roulette). This raises issues of what power does the government have to impose these rules upon us by closing down this type of gambling. But, whilst it may seem patronising, it is evident that the issue instead resides with the companies that target poorer areas, hitting the people who are weakest and limiting their control.

The number of betting shops in the UK has increased from 8,500 to 9,100 over the past two years, with hundreds more planned. But, as labour plans to allow councils the ability to control the number opening in the area, one could ask if the government is being condescending? Through stating that this is something that needs to be controlled and regulated it is perhaps implying that people cannot look after their own money. Instead, they need the government to help control them and reign them in. Rather than a more self motivated focus.

Yet, this cannot have much weighting. The party has accused the gambling industry of exploiting the poorer parts of the country, which demonstrates why regulation is needed. Whilst it can be argued that clearly the people in those areas are capable of managing their own livelihood, to be surrounded by the constant prospect of somehow doubling your money is too much temptation. In a society where many are unemployed and simply do not have the qualifications to assist them, the chances of gambling would seem a lot more worthwhile. It shows that they are targeting the weak.

In a recent study conducted in York it highlighted that for every £100 gamblers put into the Fixed odds betting terminals, they get back only £81.50, meaning gamblers in our region will have lost almost £69m. The industry claims the machines pay out £97 for every £100 spent. York’s MP, Mr Bayley states, it was “wrong to have taken the most dangerous form of gambling and put it in the most successful place – in the high street”. With these types of machines they are allowing gamblers to spend up to £100 every 20 seconds, more than four times as fast as the rate of play at a casino. It is evident that the companies that allow this are primarily concerned about making a profit, no matter what it does to the livelihood of those involved.

Whilst they have some element of a choice, it has to be contested that this is an addiction which companies are thriving and profiting on. It is allowing lives to be ruined. Although, as an outsider it is difficult to see this as anything but the choice of an individual. One who had allowed themselves to get pulled into the lure of gambling. But, it is evident that the majority who get involved began because of a prospect of hope. How many of us would love the thought of free money? Yet, for some this is more than free money, it is the prospect of a new life and a new chance.

The government should seek to control gambling, rather than allow some to profit from the misery of others. We no longer advertise smoking, perhaps we should begin to see this as the addiction that it truly is.

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