SCHOOL kids as young as 16 are gambling illegally in high street bookies, a Sun investigation has revealed.
We sent a team of 16 and 17-year-olds to a dozen shops — and SIX allowed them to use highly addictive gambling machines.
Experts have called the fixed odds betting terminal machines (FOBTs) the “crack cocaine of gambling”. Bosses at branches of Ladbrokes, William Hill, Coral and Paddy Power did not even ask for ID when our youngsters entered their shops.
The law says bookies must demand proof of age and identification from anyone who looks under 18 — and remove those who can’t produce it. Best practice recommends checking anyone who looks under 21. But our teenagers were only asked for ID in six out of the 12 outlets in London.
Renie Anjeh, 16, said: “I went into six shops in a day and I only had my age challenged twice. On one occasion someone asked for my ID so I just said I was 19. They didn’t stop me playing — they just said that I must bring my ID next time.”
FOBTs are mainly rapid high-stakes games such as blackjack and roulette, where you can gamble £100 a time and place a “repeat bet” in seconds.
Critics claim it's possible to lose thousands of pounds an hour on them. Renie, from Lewisham, South East London, said: “It is very easy to see how people get addicted to them. I played card-based games and roulette. None of them was skill-based. The thrill of trying to recover what you’ve lost is what keeps you coming back for more. You dig yourself into a deeper and deeper hole.
“It is very easy to see how people get addicted. At one stage I put £5 in and got 5p back but that was enough to make me carry on. Young people are not supposed to play on them but I think they really appeal to the younger generation.”
The FOBTs were introduced in 2002 and now number tens of thousands across the UK. Bookies are allowed four on their premises. But MPs on the Commons Culture Committee want to increase that to TWENTY for casinos and introduce the machines into arcades. They hope this will stop the so-called “clustering” of gambling outlets on high streets.
Campaigners have slammed the plans as “illogical”.
Following our probe at the London betting shops, Ladbrokes said: “We will fully investigate the cases you raise using our CCTV and take appropriate action where our usual standards have not been upheld.”
Coral told us: “We are disappointed with the example highlighted here and will establish what went wrong to ensure the mistake is not repeated.”
William Hill said: “We are unable to comment on the specifics until we have had the opportunity to investigate thoroughly.’’
Paddy Power added: “We will fully investigate and take any remedial action that is necessary.”
Roulette addiction cost me £16,000
EX-gambler David blew £16,000 on roulette and other machines in bookies’ shops after getting hooked as a schoolboy.
The 22-year-old from Essex said: “I was 16 when I started. I was in school uniform when the bus dropped me down the road from Ladbrokes. I put a tenner in the machine and won. After that I went into a bookie’s shop every day for four years. It was mainly roulette — I liked the thrill. The machines turn people into addicts because they’re so fast and the stakes are so high. It’s a means of escape. You get all the adrenaline of scoring the winner in a cup final. I later got a job at a call centre and blew it all in Ladbrokes. I’d put a grand in from my card. I lost about £16,000 in total, including my student loan. I got over it with expensive therapy. The only way to stop this is to crack down on the machines.”
By JAMES ORFORD, Psychology professor
BETTING firms are making huge profits out of these machines — and are getting the younger generation hooked on their most dangerous products.
Young people have a higher rate of problem gambling — and the unemployed are more likely to develop difficulties. Put these facts together and we could have a new rise of young problem gamblers.
These machines create addiction. The bright lights and flashing colours make them attractive to young people, who are more familiar with virtual games and computers.