Get rid of machines? Don't bet on it
Nothing beats the thrill of getting one over the bookies.
A fist full of fivers after seeing your horse pull away from the rest of the field or landing the odds on a first goalscorer bet offer a fantastic buzz and a boost to the bank balance.
But although I have been an enthusiastic punter all my adult life, betting on everything from the 4.30 at Ludlow to which talentless warbler I think will be voted off X Factor next, I have managed to avoid the lure of the dreaded fixed odds betting machines – known as FOBTs.
It is right to describe them as the crack cocaine of the betting world. No trip to the bookies would be complete without seeing groups of men – and they almost are always men – huddled around the computerised roulette machines, filling it with paper money, chasing the thrill of a big win.
Almost instantly I feel sad, seeing them sat glassy eyed, feeding the machine with money that could be feeding their families.
Critics say they are as addictive as Class A drugs – and evidence suggests that could be right. Horror stories of people spending thousands of pounds in a single afternoon are not rare. And yet walk into any bookies at any time of the day and you will find people chasing the dream of a winner.
Some people must win big, but I can't find you any examples. I want to shout at them, that they are playing a computer that can manipulate the result. At least with sport you can study the form and come to a conclusion based on evidence.
All these gamblers sat at those terminals are doing is keeping their fingers crossed that a computer will decide to pay out a winner. They are programmed to make the company a profit. Becoming addicted to playing them must be horrendous and to give the bookmaking industry credit, they launched a campaign last year urging punters: When the Fun Stops, Stop. But many players can't. They are chasing their losses, believing they are due a winner.
It is not just roulette that you can play either. Vegas-style slots can also be loaded, offering you the chance to spend large amounts in very short spaces of time.
Although in my very nature I am attracted to a punt, I have only ever twice used a FOBT. They do nothing for me. I am one of the of the lucky ones.
Bookies will never get rid of them – they make them far too much money. But surely now is the time for the government to put an end to these dreaded machines.
But with plans to limit each spin to a £2 stake thrown out earlier this year, I am not betting on a successful outcome.
- By Andrew Morris
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