With ever more people succumbing to gambling addictions every day, pressure is growing on the Government to do more to regulate the gambling industry and, in particular, fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). Campaigners believe the current maximum spin limit of Â£100 is far too high, and they have urged the Government to reduce this to a maximum of Â£2 per spin. However, so far, the Government has rejected these calls. Many believe this is because FOBTs are raking in millions of pounds for the betting industry every year and are therefore resulting in more taxes paid to the Treasury.
Nevertheless, health experts and charity bosses believe that FOBTs are damaging the well-being of too many people around the country. Gambling charities are now warning that these betting machines are having a detrimental effect on those who are serving in the armed forces. There is growing pressure on the MoD to ban the machines from army bases around the country in order to protect service men and women from a potentially devastating gambling addiction.
FOBTs are considered to be highly addictive and have even been dubbed the â€˜crack cocaineâ€™ of gambling. They feature a selection of casino-style games such as roulette, blackjack, poker, and slots. Gamblers are capable of spending up to Â£300 per minute on these machines, and these have been responsible for massive losses, especially among problem gamblers. FOBTs are commonplace in betting shops across the UK, but it has now been revealed that they are also present in many of the Army bases in the United Kingdom.
A number of officers have called the decision to place these machines on army bases as â€˜ridiculousâ€™ and are calling for them to be removed. They are often strategically placed next to ATMs, which encourages service men and women to play; many are being affected by destructive addictions that can destroy their lives.
Addiction is an illness that affects many individuals, but some have a higher risk of addiction than others. For example, those with a family history of addiction are more likely to become addicts themselves, as are those who have experienced traumatic experiences. For serving military personnel, conditions such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), are common and can result in those affected turning to substances such as alcohol or drugs or activities like gambling to take their mind off other things. PTSD sufferers have been described as being particularly vulnerable to addiction.
Duty of Care
Mike Owens, a staff sergeant in the Army, said, “The Army is always making a big deal about ‘duty of care’ to its soldiers. Why then do slot machines feature prominently in so many communal areas?”
He pointed out that at Tidworthâ€™s Swinton Barracks, there are seven FOBTs in the hub, which are all placed close to ATMs. He also said that while those in the army are commonly reminded of the dangers of smoking and drinking, the same cannot be said of gambling. In fact, he added, â€˜it seems gambling is not only acceptable but actively facilitatedâ€™.
Senior officials in the Army have stated that the machines are carefully monitored, but another soldier said, “I have witnessed personnel and civilian workers alike piling enormous amounts of money into these so-called entertainment facilities. You never see officers in these areas so perhaps the official doctrine on running gaming machines actually differs from the truth.”
Commanding Officer of 26 Engineer Regiment, Lt Col Charlie Battey, said that every effort is made to ensure that games machines are used in moderation by serving personnel, but many disagree with this statement. One serviceman, who did not wish to be named, said, â€œI have seen first-hand, soldiers putting hundreds of pounds into these contraptions and getting absolutely nothing in return.â€
- Gambling in the British Army – Slot Machines Banned in the Barracks (The Express)