BETTING is big business, with a capital ‘B’. It can also be horribly addictive.

Put the two together and you have a recipe with the power to poison the lives of countless thousands of people, not just the addicts but those around them, family, friends and workmates.

Which is why the Government was right to announce that it is cutting the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2. These machines, which feature digital games such as roulette, are found mainly in bookmakers and betting shops and they take almost £1.8 billion a year from gamblers. They are particularly addictive because they allow customers to stake up to £100 several times a minute, building up huge debts in a small space of time.

There are more than 33,000 FOBTs across the UK, often in deprived areas.

When the Telegraph & Argus launched its Beat the Betting Blight campaign back in 2012 it was because the growth in city centre betting shops – and, therefore, the opportunities to spread this social toxin – was getting out of hand; at the time there were ten betting shops and two amusement arcades within just a few streets of each other and more were on the way.

The primary aim of the campaign was to urge legislation to give the Council new powers to stop so many retail outlets being taken over and put a halt to the further expansion of this creeping scourge, with up to four FOBTs being allowed in every shop.

But it wasn’t just about the retail mix and the impact on the look and feel of the city centre; the chief reason for wanting to curb the growth was the havoc these machines were wreaking among those sucked in by them.

And welcome as the Government’s crackdown on FOBTs is, it only addresses part of the problem.

There is a real danger that those who can afford mobile phones or computers will resort to digital gambling through apps or online. Although these are potentially more controllable because gamblers must register to play, it will still rely on the gambling industry to regulate the size of stakes and monitor their customers carefully.

In announcing its crackdown, the Government said it had chosen to “take a stand” against this “social blight” because the machines “prey on some of the most vulnerable in society” and sports minister Tracey Crouch said they were concerned by the high rates of “problem gamblers” among those who played the machines.

According to the Gambling Commission, 13.6 per cent of FOBT players in England are problem gamblers.

For “problem gamblers” read “addicts.” Cambridge University research has shown that gambling is akin to drugs in the way it triggers endorphins in the brain and creates a natural high.

For some gamblers it can become a dangerous, all-consuming activity harmful to the individual as well as their family and community, in much the same way as drug or alcohol addiction. When times are hard, some people can try to hide from their problems through alcohol, drugs or gambling and some gamblers have suggested that the ease with which they can be enticed into waging high stakes encourages them to play almost non-stop.

Like all addicts, gamblers need help to break the habit and there is a woeful lack of support for the estimated 250,000 or more problem gamblers in the UK.

I suspect most people feel that responsible gambling for leisure purposes is a reasonable activity and would not wish to see it banned completely but far more needs to be done to provide support and counselling for those who need help.

It is high time for a wholesale re-balancing of the gambling industry to put the emphasis on responsibility all round. Gambling addiction is a public health issue and I, for one, would like to see some of the billions taken out in profit by the industry put back into funding specialist care for problem gamblers on a national scale, so the cost of its greed doesn’t fall on the struggling NHS.

* Why Our Own Airport Deserves to be Flying High

I MAY be tempting fate here but I was pleased to see Leeds Bradford Airport had been rated second only to Heathrow for flight punctuality in a survey compiled from Civil Aviation Authority data.

I have flown in and out of LBIA on many occasions, over many years, using numerous airlines, and I can honestly say I have never yet experienced a serious delay. To my mind, their average departure delay time of 11.3 minutes is irrelevant when you’re going to be flying for hours. Yet another local achievement to be proud of.

* When it comes to roads danger the law cannot afford to be lax

THERE will, no doubt, be those who feel that the eight-month prison sentence handed out to a driver in Keighley for a two-minute police chase that never exceeded 40mph was a bit harsh.

Mohammed Ali, 33, of Rupert Street, Keighley, claimed he borrowed a friend’s car to go the supermarket and tried to evade officers because he had no insurance, resulting in a crash with a police car and an attempted escape on foot.

The very notion he could escape punishment for one offence by committing an even more dangerous one says everything about the pervading mentality in some quarters of the district when it comes to abiding by the laws that govern our roads. The rules are there to protect all of us and Judge Durham Hall is absolutely right to send a message by enforcing them to the letter.