Angry MPs slammed the ‘appalling’ decision yesterday to allow gamblers to continue betting thousands of pounds a minute on online slot games.
The Gambling Commission announced new measures to tackle addictive web-based casino games, which include slowing down the placing of bets.
But campaigners said the regulator had failed to limit the amounts which can be staked each time to match the £2 limit brought in for high street bookmakers.
The Gambling Commission announced new measures to tackle addictive web-based casino games, which include slowing down the placing of bets (File photo)
The new rules are designed to make the online games less intensive – but they still allow games with unlimited bets every two-and-a-half seconds.
Slot games visited yesterday by a Daily Mail reporter offered maximum stakes of £100 per spin, meaning losses could hit £2,400 a minute.
As there is no legal limit, there is nothing to stop bookmakers offering games with even higher stakes.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith called the Gambling Commission ‘toothless, wet and not fit for purpose’ and that the announcement was ‘kowtowing to the gambling industry’
Mother-of-one Michelle Singlehurst, 53, told the Mail she gambled away her £440,000 family home after online bookies ‘befriended’ and ‘groomed’ her
I had to sell my £440k family home
A mother who gambled away her £440,000 family home on online slot games claims she was ‘groomed’ by bookies with offers of free trips to the races and cash bonuses.
Michelle Singlehurst, 53, says Ladbrokes engaged her in chatty conversation and gave her ‘VIP’ status – but failed to adequately check if she could afford her losses. The former financial adviser, who has a teenage daughter, said she was drawn in by ‘fast’ games, including ‘The Hulk’ in which she was able to bet £300 a minute.
Her account was shut only after she tried to take her life. And Ladbrokes checked her spending just once, letting her continue when she said she was happy with her losses.
She lost £130,000 with the bookmaker – and £420,000 with other firms – including every penny from the sale of the five-bed house in Ash Vale, Surrey. She and her partner will never be able to get a mortgage again. She said: ‘The gambling companies are appalling. They befriended and groomed me.’
Ladbrokes denied any wrongdoing, saying it fulfilled regulatory requirements. Its owner Entain said there have now been ‘extensive changes across the industry’.
The Commission’s own data shows slot games – which are designed to mimic those in real-life betting shops and casinos – are responsible for the biggest losses by punters in all online gambling.
The average player lost £67 per month, compared with £36 in casinos and £45 betting on real events such as sport.
It comes amid fears the pandemic has sparked a surge of online gambling addiction, with people stuck at home betting more than they can afford.
The failure to clamp down on online slots is in contrast to gaming machines in high street bookmakers.
Following a fiercely fought campaign led by the Mail, the Government cut the maximum stake on ‘crack cocaine’ fixed-odds betting machines (FOBTs) in bookmakers from £100 to £2 in 2019.
Of the latest online ruling, former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘This has proved finally that the Commission is toothless, wet and not fit for purpose – this announcement is kowtowing to the gambling industry. If that’s the best they can do, it’s terrible.’
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for gambling harm, said: ‘Until we have parity on stakes both online and on land at £2 the industry will continue to profit from the damage addiction causes.’
The Commission’s new steps include measures to reduce the intensity of online slots, including banning features that speed up play, or ‘autoplay’ which allows players to repeatedly bet without clicking the screen.
Michael Dugher, of the Betting and Gaming Council, said its members had already introduced ‘minimum game cycle speeds of 2.5 seconds, the ending of “turbo play” and the scrapping of multi-slot play, where a player can place multiple stakes on different games at the same time’.
The Government is currently reviewing gambling laws in what is billed as the biggest shake-up in 15 years.
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