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Labour's Obsession with Gambling – And its not just the Casinos…

Partyline A view from the Horses Mouth for

I work for as a part-time betting shop manager for a bookmaker that cannot be named (for keeping my job purposes), while studying for my degree. Reading the news in today’s newspapers, I ask myself this question: What planet is Tessa Jowell on?

“Gambling is on the increase. People want to gamble, and technology allows many new forms of gambling. Existing regulation is inadequate and leaves people exposed to risk, so, through the Gambling Act 2005, we have placed the protection of children and other vulnerable people at the heart of gambling regulation for the first time.”

- Tessa Jowell

Gambling is on the increase. If so, why are you catering to its demand and encouraging its growth by building casinos all over central and northern England? Gambling is on the increase because of the culture and ethos of careless spending that New Labour has created. Lets have a look at the current exposure from betting shops, before we even start with casinos:

  • There are approximately 8000 betting shops in the U.K. Many of you will not be aware of this, but as of this April betting shops will be allowed to stay open 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, 363 days a year, as part of the new and better ‘regulation’. At present, they can only stay open in the evenings between April and August – between September and March they are open 8 hours a day. They will still be limited to 7 hours trading on Sunday.
  • This will total 230 million hours of exposure per annum.
  • On average, there is now one betting opportunity every 2 minutes, be it Horse racing, Greyhound racing or Virtual racing. That is 360 betting opportunities everyday.
  • Each betting shop is allowed four ‘Fixed Odds Betting Terminals’ (FOBTs). 99.9% of games played are roulette. At present, you can bet up to £100 on a single spin of roulette every 30 seconds and win a maximum of £500. Three weeks ago, one of my punters managed to lose £1920, and that took him just 2 hours. On one occasion where I was running a particularly busy shop, these machines in excess of £10000 and made £5000 profit.
  • Assuming most betting shops have four FOBTs, that is 32000 FOBTs on the high street today.
  • The FOBT phenomenon even took the bookies by surprise. They now generate revenues in the hundreds of millions and actively promote them within the betting shops. These machines are the only reason why there is evening opening and ‘night racing.’
  • Opening for an extra 3.75 hours a day for 7 months will expose people to these machines for an additional 252 million hours. The new ‘Super Casino in Manchester will expose people to an extra 11 million hours to similar machines (1250 (Number of Machines) x 24 (Number of Hours) x 365 (Days in a Year)). In essence, the Super Casino is the very public tip of an enormous hidden iceberg.
  • Added to this, there is further exposure from Bingo Halls, Race Courses, Amusement Arcades, TV and most worryingly, the Internet.

I have been working for the bookmaker that cannot be named for just over 2 years now and cannot begin to describe the damage that I have seen inflicted on society in such a short space of time. As a shop manager, there is nothing that I can do to stop a problem gambler. I can only sit there and watch human beings turn into tortured, button-pressing zombies. If I told some of my punters what I think (e.g. “I think you have a problem as you should seek some help”), I would lose my job. Most notably, the introduction of FOBTs a few years ago has caused immense social damage – they, along with the machines in Casinos are the crack-cocaine of gambling in the U.K. Here is a short video I found which can give you a rough idea of how they work.

Its not a great quality video, but the guy is absolutely right. These very machines will be adorning the new casinos up and down the country… and I find that very worrying. I personally think they should be banned or severely limited (e.g. £20 maximum stakes rather than the present £100 limit).

Back to the casinos, I cannot understand why was Hugo Swire was ‘congratulating’ Manchester and pandering to Tessa Jowell. I am disappointed the Conservatives are not firmly against this absurd change in the law. Surely this new ‘Caring Conservative Party’ should be firmly against this whole travesty.

At least one Conservative MP stood up for common sense and was in touch with reality:

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): As we all know, gambling addiction is on the increase and gambling attacks those who can least afford to pay. There is nothing romantic about casinos—they are not like “Casino Royale”. They are simply factories that suck in vulnerable people to lose their money. Will the Secretary of State explain how her announcement will add to the sum of human happiness?

Tessa Jowell: Regardless of the hon. Gentleman’s depressed view of human nature, people with optimistic and positive views of their lives gamble in their millions in this country.

I don’t think Tessa Jowell realises what a serious and damaging habit gambling is. It is easier to become a gambler than to become a smoker, alcoholic or drug addict… It costs a lot more money and does far greater psychological damage than many class A drugs. This video is a good example.

I have seen people go from betting pennies to pounds in a matter of a few weeks, I have seen people lose their jobs, I have seen families torn apart, I have seen human beings become twisted wrecks, muttering and cursing to themselves all day as they fight a losing battle against the roulette wheel… many of them of Eastern European or Chinese Origin (there is a version of roulette in Chinese to cater to this particularly vulnerable market).

What is somewhat ironic (and to some extent amusing) is that most of the casinos are going to be placed in deprived areas and Labour strongholds. As a staunch Conservative supporter I could think; “Pah, Manchester, they all vote Labour anyway, why should I care, serves em right… and Labour are conveniently shooting themselves in the foot... well they are aren’t they?” Is this why there has been relative silence on the issue from the Conservatives? Perhaps?

What I really think is that we should act quickly and stop these super casinos, no matter where they are. I would rather see tens of thousands of would-be gambling addicts off the streets than a few thousand people in a job, for the sake of the many marriages, families and lives that will be ruined as a result.

The addition of these extra Casinos, as well as the extended opening hours of betting shops and the introduction of TV advertising will cause great social damage and increase crime, creating more gamblers and destroying the lives of those around them. As we have seen, there is too much exposure to gambling as it is. As Conservatives, we should not just be encouraging social responsibility, but preventing social harm as well through reversing New Labours gambling agenda:

  • Preventing the construction of all these new casinos.
  • Preventing betting shops from being open 12 hours a day all year round.
  • Severely limiting or banning outright, Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.
  • Reversing the lifting of the ban on TV advertising.
  • Capping TV gambling (e.g. premium rate phone in competitions).
  • Force the major companies to contribute more to charities such as Gamcare and give more power to shop / casino managers to act responsibly and bar people they deem as problem gamblers.

Come on Mr Cameron, let’s have some common sense on gambling.

On a final note, I am hoping to leave the bookies when I finish university.

If anyone wants to get directly in touch with me, email the deputy editor.


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