Fewer Betting Shops in Scotland

As big bookmakers consolidate and move online, smaller high street betting shops are being pushed out, according to a new report. But the industry in the UK is bigger than ever; 65 percent of adults in Scotland and England have played in the past year.

Scotland considering bills to reduce FOBTs

There are fewer high street betting shops in Scotland these days—996, to be precise, down from 1070 in 2012, according to a report in the Scotsman. The downturn is partly the result of consolidation in the industry, with bigger bookies pushing out smaller operations. Another factor is the proliferation of online gambling. The virtual market is now worth an estimated £1.7 billion (US$2.6 billion) a year in the UK, reported the publication.

But there are still plenty of places to gamble. In 2014, the Campaign for Fairer Gambling reported that there was one bookie for every 2,458 adults in Glasgow, or 205 shops, and 95 shops in Edinburgh. There are also 800 fixed-odds betting terminals in Glasgow; those machines, famously called “the crack cocaine of betting,” are under attack because they make it easier for compulsive gamblers to lose money fast, taking single bets up to £100.

The Scottish Parliament is considering two proposals that would regulate FOBTs, or “Fibots.” One would reduce the number of the machines in new shops; another would enable the government to reduce the number of FOBTs in existing shops.

“Tales of addiction and loss are not hard to find,” said Kevin Stewart MSP. “The Scotland Bill proposes devolving power over these machines to the Scottish government and our committee will be examining what this will mean in practice and what impact this is likely to have for communities where these machines are prevalent.”

Gamblers Anonymous Scotland did not point to FOBTs as a specific contributor to gambling addiction, but said that as “the range of forms of gambling is continuously expanding, this inevitably increases the numbers of those who become addicted.”

About 65 percent of adults in Scotland and England have gambled in the past year, according to the UK Gambling Commission, though the national lottery accounted for about 18 percent of that activity.