Prime Minister to crack down on addictive gambling machines that Hartlepool punters wagered £82m on in a year

PM David Cameron
PM David Cameron

THE Prime Minister is set to crack down on addictive gambling machines that punters in Hartlepool wagered more than £82.5 million on in 12 months.

David Cameron is reported to have written to the betting industry to say a bookmakers’ new code needs to be stronger to protect punters.

The code introduced pop-up alerts which flash on gaming machine screens when a customer has spent £250, or played for 30 minutes.

And the Prime Minister is expected to announce a range of regulatory and planning powers to stop high numbers of shops with the machines springing up in communities.

Punters can stake up to £100 a spin on the virtual casino-style games, dubbed the “crack cocaine” of gambling.

The Mail reported last month how in Hartlepool an average of £226,000 is being gambled every day on 74 machines in the town’s 20 betting shops, a rise of £4m on the previous year.

Punters lost £2.9m a year, up from £2.4m the previous year.

Town MP Iain Wright has expressed concerns about the machines and previously said: “Gamblers can lose hundreds of pounds in a matter of moments without any checks.

“For a town like Hartlepool, where many people are struggling with the cost of living crisis, I’m really concerned that these machines are leeching off the poor.”

Debt experts at Hartlepool Citizens Advice Bureau are also worried at the high amounts being risked.

Manager Joe Michna welcomed the proposed new measures, saying: “Excessive gambling can lead to both personal, financial and health problems for the gamblers and their families.

“We have previously expressed our concerns about fixed-odds betting terminals and how somebody can lose a whole week’s wages in a matter of minutes.

“We have had advised and assisted some clients whose debt problems stemmed from excessive gambling, including betting on these fixed odds betting terminals.

“We therefore welcome the government giving attention to the problems that can be caused by these terminals as there can be a high social cost to their use.

“Excessive gambling can destructive.

“Safeguards need to be strengthened which hopefully the proposed new code will achieve.”