Let me tell you a story.
“The school summer fair was in full swing when the family arrived. The eldest was allowed to go around on her own. She was eight now, it was her school – and she’d been given money to spend.
“In one classroom there was a magnificent display of prizes to be won, each adorned with a piece of paper with a number. Her eyes lit upon a leather football. She knew her cousins would love it, but it wasn’t for sale… All she needed was to choose the right ticket, and the football would be hers!
“She handed over some money and chose a ticket from the drum. Nothing. More money and another ticket. Nothing. And another. And another. Soon her money was gone, and the football remained tantalisingly out of reach.
“Walking away she was cross with herself. How could she have been so stupid?! There were thousands of wrong tickets to pull out of the drum, and only one right one. Even receiving a different ‘prize’ would not have felt like winning. And now the money was gone.”
That girl was me. And I have been wary of gambling – for gambling this was – ever since.
Tombolas, like other quick gratification gambling opportunities, such as scratch cards or arcade machines, are particularly addictive. ‘Maybe next time…’ can tempt the player to spend more and more… Concern about one of the most addictive of such gaming opportunities was the topic of one of the stalls at the recent Lib Dem Spring Conference in Brighton.
Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, or FOBTs, have been described as the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’. Since 2005 up to four have been allowed in every betting shop on the high street, taking up to £100 a spin, at three spins a minute, on electronic roulette.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling has number crunched the impact of FOBTs and put them at the top of their list for action. Betting shops are more prevalent in poorer areas, taking more money from the people who can least afford to lose it. In Derby alone they estimate that over £140 million is gambled per year, adding £4.5 million to gross company profits.
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling are calling for the law to be reviewed. As a first step, the amount able to be bet on any ‘spin’ could immediately be dropped to just £2.
They further calculate that betting shops make more money from these machines than over the counter bets. This would change the nature of a betting shop, making it easier for local councils to say ‘no’ to having more and more on their high streets. This is currently being judged through the courts in a case being brought by Newham Council in London.
Gambling is all around us, and at times it can seem anti-social not to participate. But there are ways and means…
For example, if you don’t write your details on the draw ticket stub, your gamble becomes a donation to the charity. And when the social club is raffling a box of sweets – take both halves of the cloakroom ticket and you know you won’t win!
If this is an issue which concerns you, please get in touch.