Millions lost in South Yorkshire bookies

Fixed odds betting terminals
Fixed odds betting terminals

Punters in South Yorkshire gambled away more than £24 million on ‘highly-addictive’ betting machines in just one year, figures have revealed.

Campaigners are calling for tighter controls on high street bookies following an investigation into losses on fixed odd betting terminals - which allow users to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds.

The report from the Commission for Fairer Gambling has estimated that, in the Sheffield Central constituency alone, the loss was £3,195,735 for 2013. Doncaster Central had the biggest loss at £4,0404,475 - the second-highest in the whole of Yorkshire.

Bookmakers have been criticised for buying up empty shops in bulk in a bid to get round restrictions which limit fixed odds betting terminals to four per shop.

Sheffield city centre has become increasingly saturated with branches - most recently William Hill bought up a vacant former clothing store in Division Street - but planning committees are often powerless to refuse them.

The report has prompted Sheffield Council to make a fresh call to the Government for more power for local authorities to put betting shops in a separate class.

Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, said: “Currently there are no clear powers under national planning law which allow us control over where certain licensed premises are sited.”

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield has also backed the council’s call.

He said: “The Government’s changes to planning rules mean more and more betting shops, payday lenders and pawn brokers can open up on our high streets because landlords can switch the use of their premises without getting planning permission.

“Councils should be given new planning powers to help stop the spread, and also to give communities a greater say in planning our city centres and helping to shape the local economy.

“The spread of betting shops is also concerning because terminals have transformed them into mini-casinos.”

Estimated losses at FOBTs in 2013 by constituency:

* Doncaster Central: £4,040,475

* Sheffield Central: £3,195,735

* Doncaster North: £2,503,072

* Rotherham: £2,501,010

* Barnsley Central: £2,223,731

* Sheffield South East: £2,092,191

* Barnsley East: £1,946,833

* Wentworth and Dearne: £1,945,230

* Brightside and Hillsborough: £1,815,217

* Don Valley: £1,811,744

* Sheffield Heeley: £1,676,960

* Sheffield Hallam: £556,849

* Penistone and Stocksbridge - £556,544