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Tower Hamlets punters spend £410million on gambling machines

PUBLISHED: 15:37 08 January 2013

A common type of gambling manchine found in bookmakers thoughout the country.

A common type of gambling manchine found in bookmakers thoughout the country.

Archant

Punters ploughed an eye-watering £410million into gaming machines in Tower Hamlets last year – with gamblers in Bethnal Green and Bow shelling out the most money in the country when it comes to deprived areas.

Furious MP Rushanara Ali, who represents the constituency, slammed betting shops for targeting poor people and “blighting” the borough’s high streets.

Bethnal Green and Bow, which has the 12th highest number of unemployed people in the country, saw £243,270,300 fed into machines that offer punters casino-style games on touch-screens.

There are 164 fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in the area’s 46 betting shops, which means each machine raked in a staggering £1,483,355 on average over the past 12 months.

There were 5,517 jobseekers claiming benefits during the same period, and MP Rushanara Ali said she was “very concerned” about how much money was made from her constituents.

“This new evidence once again highlights the need for the government to look urgently at maximum stakes, speed of play, and how we licence and regulate FOBTs,” she added. “Now is the time for action to prevent these shops from blighting our high streets and the lives of some of poorest people in our communities.”

The borough’s other constituency of Poplar and Limehouse, which ranks at number 15 nationally with 5,470 unemployment benefit claimants, saw £167,586,207 ploughed into the 113 machines dispersed among the 31 betting shops there.

The figures, which were released by campaigning charity Fairer Gambling this week, revealed a combined total of £410,856,507 was spent on the machines across the borough.

The organisation compared gambling figures for the areas with the highest numbers of benefit claimants in the country and those with the lowest rates of people out of work.

They suggested their data showed a correlation between boroughs’ unemployment levels and the amount of betting shops there.

But a spokesman for the Association of British Bookmakers said: “The idea that bookmakers target vulnerable communities is both false and offensive.

“Like any other retailer, we locate our shops where footfall is high and rents are affordable. These factors vary, which explains there can be different numbers of shops in different parts of the country.”


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