The number of people gaming on slot machines in amusement arcades, pubs and casinos has more than doubled in just three years, new figures from the independent Gambling Commission have revealed.
The sharp rise – revealed in a survey by regulators at the Gambling Commission – triggered a call from Britain’s bookmakers for arcade owners to catch up with bookmakers by encouraging people to gamble responsibly.
According to a new Gambling Commission report published this week, the proportion of those surveyed who said they had gambled in the past four weeks on a fruit or slot machine in a pub, arcade or casino more than doubled from 2.1% in 2013 to 4.5% in 2016.
Meanwhile, the percentage of those quizzed who had played a slot machine in a betting shop rose only fractionally from 1.4% in 2013 to 1.5% in 2016.
The Gambling Commission report concluded: “Playing on machines in a bookmakers has remained relatively stable.”
The stark contrast between amusement arcades and bookmakers has raised concerns that amusement arcade owners should be doing more to emulate Britain’s bookmakers which operate under far tighter rules.
Commenting on the findings, Association of British Bookmakers chief executive Malcolm George said:
“These latest findings from the Gambling Commission show the number of people playing slot machines in arcades has more than doubled in just three years.
“It’s high time the amusement arcade industry cleaned up its act and got its house in order. Arcade owners should be following the bookies’ lead and doing far more to back responsible gambling.
“These findings come on top of earlier research from the Gambling Commission which showed that people can lose more money, more quickly in an amusement arcade than a betting shop.
“In a betting shop, gaming machine players can set their own limits on what they spend or how long they play for. They are also supervised by highly trained staff who can spot people getting into difficulty and help them.
“Unlike arcades, we don’t advertise gaming machines in our windows and the machines themselves have screens with responsible gambling information and details of how to get help.
“It is clearer than ever that betting shops continue to provide the safest place to gamble. It’s about time other gambling institutions upped their game”.
The latest findings come after the Gambling Commission published evidence last month (Feb 9) that revealed gamblers are at greater risk of losing more money and playing for a longer time on gaming machines in arcades than on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in betting shops.
The findings from the independent regulator found that the percentage of sessions on gaming machines lasting longer than two hours were 67% higher in arcades than in betting shops, and that arcade gaming machines returned less money to players.
Gaming machines in betting shops require all customers to decide whether to set a limit before they can start playing and are subject to mandatory time and spend alerts.
Responsible gambling messages are displayed on machine screens in betting shops for at least 25% of the time. And, unlike amusement arcades, cash machines are not in betting shops.
Betting shops have developed Player Awareness Systems (PAS) that allow operators to monitor play for recognised ‘markers of harm’, enabling staff to interact earlier with customers who may be at risk.