The cost of problem gambling associated with FOBTs has topped £10m in a dozen local authority districts, and is concentrated in economically deprived areas, new analysis shows.
The Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR), an economics consultancy, examined the loss of welfare to problem gamblers who use FOBTs, taking into account the impact on their employment, mental and physical health, and financial, family and housing stability amongst other factors.
It estimates a total loss in welfare of £1.12bn to FOBT problem gamblers, which is concentrated in some of the most deprived areas of the UK.
“This research starkly demonstrates the human cost that FOBTs bring, to both problem gamblers and their families,” John White, CEO of bacta, said.
“Only by cutting FOBT stakes to £2 can we begin to make progress with the huge task of tackling problem gambling, one that starts with removing the most obvious incentives to harm.”
Glasgow City is the local authority most affected, with problem gamblers in Scotland’s largest city suffering to the tune of an estimated £27.06m. The other worst-hit areas are Birmingham (£20.88m), Liverpool (£18.66m), Manchester (£14.58m) and Leeds (£13.96m).
All five local authorities rank highly on the Index of Multiple Deprivation, a government metric which assesses deprivation across indicators including health, education and crime. CEBR has converted the government figures into an index ranking local authorities from 0 to 100 (100 representing the most deprived) and the five areas all have scores of over 70, compared to the national average of 59.
Other authorities experiencing particularly high levels of gambling-related harm from FOBTs are the City of Edinburgh (£13.71m), Westminster (£12.73m), Brent (£11.98m), County Durham (£11.24m) and Newham (£10.25m).
The research comes as a government review on FOBT stakes nears its conclusion. The current maximum stake of £100, a level fifty-times higher than on other widely available gambling machines, is set to be reduced, with the option of a £2 stake one of those being considered.
CEBR’s research estimates there are 121,000 FOBT users who could be classed as problem gamblers, each suffering an average annual loss in welfare of £9,353.
In addition to the direct loss of welfare to problem gamblers through FOBT use, the research estimates a cost to people directly affected by their behaviour of £372m, with the loss of financial and family stability especially high.
The research was commissioned by Bacta, the trade association for the UK amusements sector, which is calling for FOBT stakes to be reduced to £2. Others who have called for a £2 stake include the General Synod of the Church of England, the Royal Society for Public Health, and 93 local authorities across England and Wales.