New figures suggest Bradford gamblers lost more than £9.5 million on betting machines last year, as bookies were accused of targeting deprived areas for profit.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling (CFFG) said an estimated £268,438,648 was wagered on 241 fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in the district in 2013 – and of that £9,529,572 was lost.
The organisation, whose Stop the FOBTs campaign aims to remove the machines from betting shops, said the loss worked out at £584 per player – that compares to a regional high of £989 in Hull, £600 in Kirklees and £235 in the Craven district.
The Campaign worked out that £470m was lost on FOBTs in the 55 most deprived local authorities – which includes Bradford at 26th – compared to £230m in the least deprived.
But the research and allegations about the industry zeroing in on deprived areas have attracted strong criticism from the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB).
Its chief executive Dirk Vennix said: “The CFFG allegation is total fantasy, and we can prove it. The gambling industry does not target deprived areas. It never has. It never will.”
The CFFG is funded by Derek Webb, who invented Three Card Poker which is played in casinos across the world, but the Campaign stressed he was retired and not trying to promote casinos over bookies.
Bradford West Respect MP George Galloway said: “I’m against gambling full stop. It brings misery and depredation to families and individuals and the rash of bookmakers' shops despoils city centres, which is glaringly evident in Bradford.
“I understand why people who are in desperate straits gamble but it’s a false hope. It doesn't stop there. I regularly go into supermarkets and see the amount of money that is passed through the tills on the various grasping arms of the lottery. Sad and self-defeating.”
David Ward, Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East, said he had seen first-hand how addiction to the machines could damage people. A constituent who was on the brink of suicide visited him to explain how his addiction to the fast-paced FOBTs had almost cost him everything.
He said the amount estimated to be lost in Bradford was massive.
“It’s day by day, bit by bit dripping away and people who can ill-afford to lose anything.
“The figures, if correct, are truly shocking.”
Mr Ward said his party wanted to see the same local authority powers that the Telegraph & Argus’s Beat the Betting Blight campaign has called for.
“Liberal Democrats and I want to see to see councils given powers in the planning system to stop an explosion of bookmakers on the High Street and, in Government; we have frozen stakes and prizes on B2 machines while we wait for new research that can be used to set more sensible limits in the future,” he said.
Keighley Conservative MP Kris Hopkins said: “I do not know whether these figures are accurate or not but, if they are, they certainly shocking.”
The figures were worked out using information from sources including bookies’ annual reports, Gambling Commission figures, national surveys and the Census, and were officially announced at the House of Commons yesterday.
CFFG consultant Adrian Parkinson said they were the most accurate available and until the ABB released its own figures, it could not criticise.