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Manic media goes for broke in war on FOBTs

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The BBC TV series Broken recently came to a close with residents from a local community smashing all the FOBTs in its area. Dramatic impact aside, the message was not wholly comfortable, suggests Ken Scott.

 

Sean Bean’s powerful performance as a local priest in the drama series Broken was undoubtedly impressive, especially his rally against the local bookies whose FOBTs had caused the suicide of one of his parishioners.

Responding to the misery of the machines, the priest gave his sermon on the dangers of the machines and all their evils. In response, the entire community bought sledgehammers and ran into every local bookie and smashed the machines.

Oddly, he wasn’t so vocal about the priests who sexually abused him and his friends when they were younger; the evangelistic Christian who hated gays; the police officers who lied in court to cover their errors that led to the shooting of young black guy – all themes throughout the series. No, it was just a rally to smash the evil FOBTs.

It’s interesting that the narrative focused on these machines rather the massive social evils of sex abuse in the church, racism and prejudice. And it’s an uncomfortable point to ponder.

We all know that the machines are an issue and that they need addressing. Not just because they’re wrongly positioned in the gaming arena, but because they cast a long shadow over the broader industry’s social responsibility work.

Twenty four people turned up in Derry to rally against an amusement arcade re-siting application. Why? Why would they consider an arcade to be inappropriate for their high street. Probably the same reason that someone a few years ago beat up a paediatrician because they thought they were a paedophile: ignorance.

And ignorance is made so much easier when the FOBT issue remains unresolved, especially when the local community doesn’t really distinguish between an amusement arcade and a betting shop when it’s angry.

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