Professor Jim Orford appeared on the Channel 4 Dispatches TV programme which finally appeared, after some postponements, on the evening of August 6. The programme was about one of Jim's favourite research topics, gambling, and particularly focused on what are now called Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). These have appeared in high street betting shops in the last 10 years and are now recognised to be particularly addictive. That is probably because, unlike other slot machines, they allow people to play casino type games like roulette, and, also unlike other machines, people can bet up to £100 a time and lose literally thousands in half an hour or so. They are now the single most profitable form of British gambling and the industry is keen to have as many of them as possible. Because present regulations allow no more than four FOBTs in any one betting shop, it looks as if this is leading to a proliferation of betting shops in certain high streets, particularly in poorer urban areas. MPs like Harriet Harman are starting to ask questions about this.
Jim appeared on the programme after he acted as an adviser to the National Centre for Social Research who carried out the 2010 British Gambling Prevalence Survey. Jim has done some further analysis of the data from the survey in order to estimate what proportion of the total amount spent on FOBTs is being spent by people who appear to have gambling problems. It turns out to be a large percentage – about 25%. Since FOBTs make over £1 billion a year, this looks as if over a quarter of a billion pounds is being taken annually from people who have problems with gambling.
If you're interested in this area you might like to look at a website which Jim has recently started under the name Gambling Watch UK – www.gamblingwatchuk.org.