Medway Council in talks over betting machine fears

Betting machine
Image caption Medway Council said it was possible to bet up to £18,000 an hour

Talks are being held over betting machines after Medway Council raised concerns they were "highly addictive".

Councillors will have a meeting with the Gambling Commission on Thursday.

Councillor Mike O'Brien said the machines could leave people in serious financial trouble very quickly.

This month, the government ruled out a crackdown on the machines. The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) said most customers spent "safely and responsibly".

Medway Council said the touch-screen machines could be found in many bookmakers.

The "fixed-odd betting terminals" offered a variety of different gambling games, the most popular being roulette, it said.

The council said the time between spins of the roulette wheel was about 20 seconds and it was possible to bet £100 a time, or up to £18,000 an hour.

'High street blight'

Mr O'Brien, who is responsible for community safety, said the council was concerned bookmakers were targeting people on low incomes.

"There are allegations that there are more than twice as many betting shops in areas of high unemployment than in areas of low unemployment," he said.

"The influx of betting shops, often in more deprived areas, is blighting our high streets."

Earlier this month, culture minister Hugh Robertson said there was little evidence the machines caused serious problems.

At the time, Dirk Vennix, ABB chief executive, said the vast majority of the gambling industry's eight million customers spent "safely and responsibly".

He also denied betting shops were becoming more prolific on Britain's high streets, saying bookmakers constituted 4% of retail space in town centres.

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