West Bromwich MP Tom Watson raised the subject in the House of Commons yesterday of Fixed Odds betting terminals; they allow punters to gamble up to £100 every 20 seconds, transforming local bookmakers into “High Street digital casinos” and Mr Watson says they should be banned.

fivxed odds betting machineTakings from the machines now account for nearly half of the big bookmakers’ annual profits. He called for the UK to follow Ireland’s example and outlaw these “addictive machines”.

David Cameron said he had been lobbied about this previously, and will take a “proper look at this issue”. Industry says there is no hard evidence of this and have promised a new code of conduct to allow players to limit their own stakes.

Economist and statistician Dr Scott Cato records that in 2001 regulation of gambling passed from the Home Office to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. This was a necessary move before the passing of legislation that will allow an expansion in this area of commercial activity, which is now considered an ‘industry’, although it has no socially valuable product. Harriet Harman, the former Labour minister who led the liberalisation, said she had made a “mistake”.

For the human costs listen again to today’s accounts of those who become addicted on the Radio 5 live Breakfast phone-in, read the September testimony of Roger Radler, who lost his job, wife and self respect.

Read more about the American experience and the research of Nottingham Trent’s Professor Mark Griffiths into all aspects of the gambling industry here.