A Wigan fairer gambling campaigner has slammed the alleged “unethical” practice of gamblers being offered perks to keep playing fast-play terminals.
Adrian Parkinson has been a long-term critic of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), dubbed the “crack-cocaine of gambling”.
An investigation has claimed this week that some bookmakers have told employees to offer free bets or drinks to encourage gamblers to play on the machines.
Mr Parkinson, who represents the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, said: “The practices being deployed by betting operators or nothing short of unethical. They are purposely targeting customers in order to get them hooked on machines known to be addictive. We’ve got a serious issue of betting shop clustering in Wigan town centre - 16 FOBTs in a very short walking distance of each other preying on those who can least afford to lose money.
“The bookmakers know the government is set to clamp down on the machines soon and they are literally robbing customers’ pockets for every penny they can get before that clamp down comes.”
Coral, the bookmakers accused of employing the tactics, revealed in a BBC investigation, has rejected the allegations and has maintained staff are given training to “identify and protect” problem gamblers.
FOBTs are known for their fast-play, high stake games and various calls have been made to reduce the maximum stakes.
Wigan Council, within its recent gambling policy, included a critical statement about FOBTs which attracted criticism from bookmaker lobbyists. The town hall said it would back moves to reduce FOBTs to a maximum £2 per spin. The Association of British Bookmakers has disputed many of the claims made by Mr Parkinson’s campaign and has said the number of people staking large amounts on FOBTs has reduced significantly.