Gambler robbed Leeds bookies after losing cash on gambling machine

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A man who carried out a knifepoint robbery at a bookies after losing £1,000 on a gambling machine has been jailed.

Andrew Whitaker was given a two-year sentence after a court heard how he blew the cash which he was supposed to spend on a deposit for a flat.

Whitaker lost the money playing on a fixed odds betting terminal, described in court as the “crack cocaine of gambling.”

The 24-year-old then left the Ladbrokes betting shop on Harrogate Road, Chapel Allerton, and went to buy a knife before returning to carry out the robbery.

Whitaker waited until most of the customers had left before threatening a member of staff with a the weapon shortly before 4pm on April 8 this year.

He pointed the six-inch blade at the victim and said: “Get me my money back.”

Whitaker was told it was not possible to get the money from the machine and the member of staff was then ordered to hand over cash from the tills.

He left with £475 in cash. A picture of Whitaker was circulated among police forces nationwide and was recognised by an officer in Scotland.

Whitaker handed himself in at a police station in London in October. He pleaded guilty to robbery.

Glenn Harris, mitigating, said Whitaker is a popular and talented DJ and committed the offence as he was about to move from Scotland to London.

Mr Harris said Whitaker had £1,000 in cash for a deposit on a flat in the capital but gambled the money after spending four days drinking and taking drugs with friends in Leeds.

The barrister said Whitaker foolishly believed he could make more cash by playing on the machine but instead lost everything.

Describing the social effect of the gambling machines, he said: “These fixed odds betting terminals are increasingly problematic for people around this country. They are commonly known as the crack cocaine of gambling. You can lose hundreds and hundreds of pounds per second and you can imagine how quickly someone can lose a salary or, all too often, benefits.”

Whitaker, who appeared in court on a videolink from Armley jail, read a statement in which he described how he was “utterly possessed” at the time he committed the offence. He said: “I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep shame and regret.”

Judge Robert Bartfield told Whitaker that he accepted that he had an addiction to the gambling machines at the time. But he added: “The other side of the coin is that you are intelligent enough to know that in the end you can only be a loser with them. People who go into premises with knifes to use them in the course of a robbery will go to prison.”

Mitchell Kezin with veteran film director John Waters. Picture: Jeff Henschel

Film interview – Mitchell Kezin on his film Jingle Bell Rocks! which screens in Leeds