Glasgow gamblers spend over £800m per year on FOBTs

23 December 2013

Gamblers in the Scottish city of Glasgow spent over £800 million (€956.1 million/$1.3 billion) on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) over the past year.

According to the Herald newspaper, a total of £1,400 in bets per capita was played on FOBTs in Scotland’s biggest city in 2011-12.

In addition, new figures also showed a 20% rise in the amount of betting shops since gaming laws were loosened in 2005.

Glasgow is now home to 250 betting shops, up from 210 shortly after the change in law around eight years ago.

Campaigners have put the rise in the amount of betting shops down to gaming companies expanding in areas where FOBTs are most popular.

FOBTs have faced heavy criticism during the last year, both from lobby groups and politicians.

As reported by iGaming Business, Labour leader Ed Miliband is the latest to have expressed his concern at the problems FOBTs cause to the young and vulnerable and has called for councils to be given more power to curb the machines if they are negatively impacting their local community. 

Adrian Parkinson, a consultant for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, actually played a part in bringing FOBTs to Glasgow during his time as a bookmaking executive.

Parkinson has now turned his back on machines he once championed and is keen to highlight the negative impacts of introducing them to certain areas.

“The fact that you have a 20% uplift in the number of bookies in a period of seven years backs up what we have been saying: bookmakers are targeting certain areas,” he said.

“The bookmaking sector denies there is any increase in the number of betting shops. However, we believe there is an explosion in their number in certain areas – but a decrease in other areas.

“Bookmakers are coalescing around certain areas that are more profitable in terms of FOBTs and moving out of other areas where FOBTs are not as appealing. The truth is that FOBTs do not appeal to somebody who is more affluent.”

Paul Rooney, Glasgow’s city treasurer, has been lobbying for change in the laws surrounding FOBTs and said that the new figures show that something must be done.

“The days of all bookies as places full of smoke and TV screens where guys put wee bets on horses and football have gone,” Rooney said. “Now many are empty apart from some guys milling around puggies (FOBTs).

“There hasn't been a 20% rise in the number of bookies because people are queuing out the door to put on their football coupon – it's about getting another 150 high stakes, high-speed gambling machines into the city. That is a huge increase in provision we just didn't need.”

In response, a spokesperson for the Association of British Bookmakers said betting shops only open in response to demand.

“Every single betting shop in Glasgow is licensed to be open by the City Council, and no betting shop anywhere in the country can open without a licence,” the spokesperson said.

“Just as is the case with any other retailer, a betting shop will open in response to and meet customer demand.

“Gaming machines themselves have been in shops for 12 years, so are not new products, but they are very popular with our eight million customers.”

Related article: Labour leader Miliband backs call for action over FOBTs