SHOCK figures show gamblers across Wigan borough have piled £40m into betting machines dubbed the “crack cocaine” of gambling.
The statistics – released by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling – estimate a loss of £1,600 per punter on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).
Wigan campaigner and gambling whistle-blower Adrian Parkinson said the startling figures support calls for a cap on how much can be staked on the fast play machines.
He told the Evening Post: “Our latest analysis estimates just under 9,000 FOBT users across Wigan, Leigh and Makerfield with around 2,000 experiencing problems as a result.
“Those experiencing problematic gambling on these £100 spin machines could suffer financial, work or relationship issues as a consequence.
“Wigan Council has taken part in some local awareness and counselling initiatives around the issue, but we have to face up to the root of the problem – the high stakes.
“There is a tidal wave of support now gathering for a £2 cap with the Labour Party, the SNP, Liberal Democrats and even senior Conservatives like Mayor of London Boris Johnson all now supporting urgent action.
“The question is how long can the Prime Minister go on taking no action.”
The figures – which take into account the number of betting shops, FOBTs and gambling habits in each parliamentary constituency - estimate £17m was inserted into the terminals in Wigan with a further £13m in Leigh and almost £9m in Makerfield.
A recent shake up of regulations has allowed local authorities more power to block planning applications preventing betting shops from opening.
And Wigan Council also last year backed calls to reduce the stakes on FOBTs joining local authorities in Preston, Liverpool and Manchester in doing so.
FOBTs, dubbed the crack cocaine of gambling because of their high-speed play and addictive qualities allow gamblers to bet at a rate four times faster than in a casino.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling estimates since 2008, around £8bn has been “sucked out of local economies” across the country due to their use.
Wigan born Mr Parkinson added: “What is particularly troubling is not just the amount of money these machines suck from communities – but the type of communities that are worst affected – namely those with high levels of deprivation.”