'Crack cocaine' slot machines face cap

'Crack cocaine' slot machines could see payouts radically capped. Plans by the Government could see a code of conduct allowing punters to set limits on what they may lose. It's easy to lose hundreds of pounds in a few minutes with fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) - they're highly addictive which has earned them the nickname of 'crack cocaine' slot machines.

They're also very, very profitable for bookies.

Playing the slots

Stop the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, an organisation campaigning to remove FOBTs from betting shops, reckons Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral make more than £900 per week profit from each machine they operate - they're allowed to install up to four machines per shop.

"Approximately 50% of all profits made by land based bookmakers are now derived from FOBTs," claims the organisation. "The game driving this explosion in profits is Roulette, which accounts for approximately 90% of turnover and profit."

The campaigning organisation says bets up to £100 per spin every 20 seconds on casino games are easy to rack up, and up to £2 per spin on slot games. No other gaming machine allows such high speed, high stake play, they say.

£1.4bn profits

Last year ex-Parliamentary researcher Matt Zarb-Cousin wrote in the Guardian that FOBT's had caused him to lose £16,000. "I had no money, and no possible access to credit. I worked out that I had lost £16,000 – all the savings I might have had, all the money I had earned and all the money I had borrowed."

Zarb-Cousin was 16 when he first started playing FOBTs. "From that day on, I played FOBTs every single day for the next four years."

It's estimated that between 2002 and 2012 FOBTs have soared to more than 34,000 - and the profits made from them by bookies have now surged to £1.4 billion. In future the new Government rules should also supply punters with running updates on how much they've lost.

Last year William Hill said £6.6 billion was staked on FOBTs in a six month period while Ladbrokes saw £5.9 billion wagered in the same January-June time frame.

The Labour Party introduced the 2005 Gambling Act which deregulated UK gambling. Tessa Jowell, then Culture Secretary, said the reforms "represent an exciting opportunity for the British gambling industry".