Fixed-odds betting terminals 'cost taxpayers £210 million a year'
Fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) cost taxpayers as much as £210 million a year due to the impact on frontline services, according to research.
Roulette-style betting machines, which allow gamblers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds, cost £116 million in hospital inpatient services, £32 million in mental health services and £16 million as a result of criminal behaviour, according to analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr).
Problem gambling associated with the potentially addictive machines also results in £13 million in additional housing costs, while associated work difficulties cost £30 million, the researchers estimated.
This annual loss equates to an estimated £1,723 per problem gambler, the report said.
The study, which was commissioned by bacta, the trade association for the UK amusements sector, specifically looked at the damage caused by so-called B2 machines.
High-stake, high-speed electronic casino games are said to be dangerously addictive and currently enable a player to theoretically gamble away £18,000 an hour.
Bacta said a cut to £2 for FOBT stakes was necessary to protect public services.
Earlier this month, campaigners against FOBTs criticised the regulator after it failed to adopt a maximum stake of £2.
The Gambling Commission has said the stake limit for FOBT non-slot games, including roulette, should be set at £30 or less.
The Government has committed to reducing the limit to between £2 and £50 but has yet to deliver its final decision on the matter.
Bacta chief executive John White said: "These findings highlight the wider cost of FOBTs to crucial public services - those which can ill afford to waste a single penny. Yet the plight of FOBTs continue to take its toll.
"The Government surely needs to act decisively putting all other suggested stake reductions aside and looking at the only option, a £2 stake.
"Only by cutting FOBT stakes to £2 can we begin to make progress with the huge task of tackling problem gambling caused by FOBTs, one that starts with removing the most obvious incentives to harm."