Betting companies accused of ‘preying on most vulnerable’ Leeds residents

Fixed odds betting machines have been dubbed the 'crack cocaine of gambling'
Fixed odds betting machines have been dubbed the 'crack cocaine of gambling'
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Betting companies have been accused of “preying on the most vulnerable” residents of Leeds by moving out of wealthy areas and into poorer neighbourhoods.

A Leeds City Council report said, while the total number of bookmakers in the city had remained fairly constant, there had been an increase in shops in deprived areas.

Figures show the only council wards where there are more betting shops than five years ago are Armley, City and Hunslet, Crossgates and Whinmoor, Middleton Park and Rothwell.

The report said: “Bookmakers are closing premises to reopen them in a more profitable area... The concern is that... businesses are preying on the most vulnerable in order to make a profit.”

The report was presented to the council’s licensing committee yesterday during a discussion about fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Dubbed the “crack cocaine of gambling”, the machines allow users to stake up to £100 a time for possible prize money of £500.

Councillors have already pledged their support to a national campaign for the maximum stake to be slashed to £2.

Alwoodley councillor Neil Buckley told the committee: “The problem with these things is that they are especially designed to hoover the money from poor people and that can’t be right.”

Peter Craske, spokesman for the Association of British Bookmakers, refuted the claim that betting companies targeted poor people.

He said: “Betting shops operate on the same basis as any other retailer – locating shops where there are the most customers.

“Bookmakers never have, do not, and never will target deprived areas and indeed only 17 per cent of betting shops are located in what are classified as most deprived areas.”