'I've been turned into a hardened gambler'

  • Published
A punter tries out a fixed-odds betting terminalImage source, PA

The UK government recently rejected a plea to reduce the maximum bet on some fixed-odds betting terminals FOBTs on High Street bookmakers.

The move was criticised by some, while the government said stronger controls - which give local authorities more power to stop betting shops opening and mean gamblers betting more than £50 per spin have to interact with staff or have an account - were sufficient.

We spoke to four people who have experience with FOBTs, including gambling addicts who have lost thousands of pounds on High Street betting machines.

Niall, Cheshire

I am a recovering compulsive gambler who has been in recovery since June 2014, thanks to Gamblers Anonymous (GA).

Over the last few months, I have started to become more active in my GA group and have noticed a huge increase in the number of people with specific problems with FOBTs.

This isn't just limited to males, we have a core of female members who have all become addicted to these machines.

I never had a problem with gambling until I played these machines.

In the end, it took over my life.

Fixed-odds betting terminals


profit made by bookmakers from the machines in a year*

  • £100 maximum stake per bet

  • £2 what campaigners believe the maximum stake should be

  • £500 maximum win per bet

  • 34,874 number of FOBTs in betting shops in the UK*


I stole from family and friends in order to feed my addiction and lost jobs due to the amount of time I'd taken off of work in order to gamble.

I would easily go into the bookies and spend up to eight to 10 hours in there every day.

I was deemed a regular in the bookies I went into - but not one person ever suggested that I had a problem.

They were happy enough to see me feeding money into the machines every day. I believe this was because I was never aggressive or kicked up a fuss in the shop. I would take my frustration out on my loved ones instead.

I am now 15 months clean of gambling. I want people to hear my story now and if it can help one person, then I feel that I have done some good.

Terry, Ballymena, Northern Ireland

My fixed odds betting has made me contemplate suicide. I've been playing fruit machines for years. For example, I can spend £2,000 on fixed odds betting in an hour.

I got paid today, but I'm not going out the door to spend it on FOBTs.

My good friend works behind the betting shop counter. I basically pay his salary.

I do it for the flashing lights, and the outside chance of maybe hitting it big.

I was up £1,000 earlier this week but I wasn't satisfied and I didn't stop betting.

I've lost between £80,000 and £90,000 in total, which is my whole income.

I don't pay my bills anymore. It damages my relationships with other people.

I give my money to my current partner, who buys things for me.

I've tried to ban myself, but it won't work. I've been turned into a hardened gambler.

Image source, PA

John from Swansea

I work in a high street bookmakers. I see the vast majority of people playing FOBTs gambling responsibly every day. Why should this activity be curtailed because of the problems of a very small minority?

I watched a TV programme about a chap who had a problem with FOBTs. The betting shop banned him for his own good and he then went on to blow his money on scratch cards instead.

You don't ban alcohol because of a few alcoholics. You can ban or restrict FOBTs easily but it will merely displace the problem of the minority, to the detriment of the majority.

Help those minority who have a problem but don't punish the vast, overwhelming majority who gamble responsibly with their leisure money and within their means.


I have been a gambler for over 20 years. I have lost jobs because of my gambling. I've been to prison. I've been made homeless and tried to kill myself. In my life I have probably lost over £400,000.

Since bookmakers have had roulette terminals, I think it has made people's gambling addictions much worse.

In the past I used to spend all day in a bookmakers. I once gambled away £6,000, all within two-and-a-half hours.

People who could control their gambling on horses and football now find themselves completely out of control.

The buzz from the machines is so addictive that it is nearly impossible to stop.

I have seen a lot of anti-social behaviour from people using the machines and I know that some staff are told not to report it.

I believe the government, like with smoking, will never ban it because they get so much money from it.

I have now excluded myself from many betting shops. I printed off letters with my photo and drove around different areas in the middle of the night posting the letters to every betting shop I could find.

That way, I know if I want to go into a bookmakers, it means a 70-mile drive to a betting shop outside my self-exclusion zone.

Nowadays I use online betting sites where you can control your betting by using deposit limits.

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