I was absolutely inconsolable when I heard this morning that the government had decided to reduce the maximum stake on fixed odd betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2. Betfred’s MD Mark Stebbings said something along the lines that he was upset and heartbroken having to axe 4500 staff because so many of his shops will start losing money. The founder of Betfred, Fred Done, said he might seek a judicial review of the government’s decision. “The Tories have adopted a Labour Party manifesto pledge. They are playing politics with people’s jobs”, said Mr Done. In other news, his brother Peter is a major donor to the Conservative Party.
Yes, I am concerned about the jobs that might be lost but I am far more concerned at all those lives which are being ruined by the gambling epidemic that has swept our country. No other country in the world has a system whereby someone can lose £100 every 20 seconds in a High Street shop. People elsewhere with an insatiable desire to lose money have to go to casinos. These are jobs which are, sadly, sustained by screwing vast sums of money from ordinary folk who are encouraged to gamble way beyond their means.
It is a matter of fact that bookmakers are normally found in working class areas and not in the more affluent areas. It’s where their business is. By definition, working class people have less money than those from the more affluent areas. And they gamble more. Fred Done says the government is “playing politics with people’s jobs” but in reality the Tories have, at long last, done what they should have done years ago.
I cannot imagine gambling a fiver, never mind £100 every 20 seconds. I hate the idea of losing so much that I don’t gamble at all. I hate the idea of gambling because I know that I will eventually lose that money. It’s not an equal contest between bookie and punter. But lots of people bet and they bet regularly. Now and again, they will brag on social media that they have beaten the bookie. What they do not do is to announce when they have lost, which will be almost every single week.
The TV adverts are not aimed at the working classes who already bet. In recent years, they have targeted more middle class males in order to make gambling more socially acceptable and to make more money. A group of lads in their twenties, bowling down the road in their smart, casual clothes, laughing and joking about spending the afternoon waiting to win millions. It is never a dishevelled, unshaven middle aged man, looking as miserable as sin as he pisses away his wages or benefits in two minutes on a FOBT.
Fred Done plainly doesn’t give a toss at people who are hopelessly addicted because they are nothing but his profit margins. He doesn’t care about wrecked lives and wrecked marriages because his FOBTs keep him in the lifestyle to in which he wishes to remain.
The truth is that there is no such thing as a poor bookie. The poor people are his customers.