Gambling addict calls for stricter FOBT laws

Roger Radler lost his job, wife and self respect

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A gambling addict who lost a month's salary in a few hours on betting machines at the height of his addiction says stricter laws must be brought in.

Roger Radler, from High Wycombe, says FOBTs (Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals) are as addictive as "crack cocaine".

Mr Radler said he could "bet £100 every 10 seconds" on the roulette games.

Derek Webb, a Derby millionaire who made his money from gambling and inventing Three Card Poker, is funding a campaign to ban FOBTs.

"On table roulette, everyone has their own set of chips, makes their own bets on the live table and it takes a minute or two to get the resolution," said Mr Webb.

"A player on an FOBT machine can bet up to £100 every 20 seconds so that is a totally different experience to live casino tables."

Fixed odds betting terminals

  • Fixed-odds betting terminals first appeared in 1999 after then chancellor Gordon Brown scrapped tax on individual bets in favour of taxing bookmakers' profits
  • High stakes casino-style gambling is banned from high streets but FOBTs used remote servers so that the gaming was not taking place on the premises
  • After the 2005 Gambling Act, FOBTs were given legal backing and put under the same regulatory framework as fruit machines
  • They stopped using remote servers but stakes were limited to £100 and terminals to four per betting shop
  • According to the Gambling Commission there are 33,284 FOBTs across the UK
  • The average weekly profit per FOBT in 2012 was £825, up from £760 in 2011, according to the Gambling Commission
  • 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

Unlike fruit machines in pubs, bingo halls and amusement arcades, where stakes are limited to £2, gamblers can bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on FOBTs - more than four times as fast as the rate of play in an actual casino.

The maximum payout is £500.

'Horrendous' experience

"It's the crack cocaine of the gambling industry," said Mr Radler.

"You can get your high every 15 seconds and you are losing huge sums of money. At my worst, I probably lost a month's salary in a couple of hours and that's horrendous."

According to figures from the Gambling Commission, the gross profit from FOBTs in 2012 was £1.4bn.

But the Association of British Bookmakers, which represents major bookmakers such as Ladbrokes, William Hill and Paddy Power, said there was no direct evidence that FOBTs caused gambling addiction and research suggested "problem gambling is about the individual player and not a particular product".

A spokesman said: "A reduction in stakes and prizes would therefore have little, if any, impact on the level of problem gambling.

"Instead, it would automatically put 40,000 jobs and 8,000 shops at risk for an industry that supports approximately 100,000 jobs and pays nearly £1bn in tax in the UK each year."

For more on this story watch Inside Out, broadcast on Monday, 30 September on BBC One East Midlands and East at 19:30 BST and nationwide thereafter on the iPlayer.

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