Great Britain’s Labour Party is receiving a lashing concerning it’s relaxing of gambling laws by one of its own – and not just anyone – it’s very own deputy leader, Harriet Harmen. Harmen’s call to conscious is linked to the dramatic decline of low income areas that have become a feeding ground for predatory betting shops peddling high-stakes gambling machines. Researches recently revealed that the countries citizens lost a combined amount of 1 billion pounds on the fixed odds terminals last year alone. With bets as high as 100 pounds being taken at a rate of every 30 seconds, it becomes less astonishing as to how such a massive debt could accumulate.
The targeting of poorer areas is apparent when researches disclose that areas with more concentrated wealth feature about 5 betting shops per 100,000 people, in contrast to the 12 setting up shop for that same sized segment of lower-income population. What also differs is how the book-makers concentrate on one central area, or a single high street in low income areas, accommodating the ritual of abuse for problem gamblers. This, says Harriet Harman, is what her and her party colleagues did not anticipate and has caused them to rethink their decision to loosen the regulation that would have prevented these issues.
Harman openly admits what she feels to be a failing of her constituents and is readily accepting responsibility, stating, “If we had known then what we know now [about the clustering of betting shops], we wouldn’t have allowed this, because it’s not just ruining the high street, it’s ruining people’s lives. I got the most heartening letters and emails and calls that I’ve ever had in 30 years of being an MP, just saying ‘Please do something about this. It’s ruined my life, it’s ruined my family, it’s really dangerous and the problem is it’s getting worse and that’s why we need the law to be changed so that something can be done about it’.”
When asked how this might shape her parties future approach to policies concerning the gambling industry, Harman went on to add, “Well, I think we were wrong, we have made a mistake and this result is the consequence and we need to do something about it.”
From a lay-persons perspective, it seems somewhat apparent that such betting shops and high-stakes touch screen terminals would primarily attract individuals that would most likely be identified as gambling addicted – especially in contrast to strictly regulated and self-contained casinos that offer a more entertainment and leisure focused experience. Individual who are more inclined to bet casually and only with the disposable income they can afford are going to do so at such an establishment -where they include it into an evening worth of activities such as dinner, a show, a spa treatment, or dancing.
“Popping” into a Betting shop on a high street , and having the ability to make numerous high stake wagers in a very short period of time is catering to a problem gambler’s impulse oriented addiction. But, the ABB, Association of British Bookmakers, defends the strategy behind the location choices of their establishments, saying, “”Like any retailer, betting operators look at footfall, demand, location, rental rates and competitive presence when deciding where to open a new shop. Up to 80% of new shops are opened in vacant units, providing jobs and investment that would otherwise be absent.”
Such economic benefits are not clearly illustrated when such research results by Birmingham University professor Jim Orford paint a much more grim economic picture with an estimated near 300 million pounds are being wagered and lost by individuals who identify themselves as having a degree of problem gambling that negatively effects their careers and relationships.