September 13, 2017 by Natalie Whitehead

Scotland has been ranked as the region with the highest level of gambling according to a recent survey carried out by the country’s Gambling Commission.

The survey was carried out across various parts of the UK and revealed that nearly 68 percent of people in Scotland have gambled at some point in the last 12 months as compared to 52 percent recorded in London. The national average was 63 percent. The regions covered in the study included Wales, Scotland and nine regions in England.

Scotland was also the top region in terms online betting with a bookmaker having a 10 percent rating, while the rest of the country was recorded at seven percent. Nearly five percent of adults in Scotland, Yorkshire and the east of England have indicated that they have used betting machines available with bookmakers. The national average is three percent.

Machines in bookmakers would include the highly controversial fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) which have been linked to an increase in gambling addiction, debt as well as money laundering. The FOBTs allow £100 to be wagered every 20 seconds. Research by Landman conomics in 2016 showed that punters in Scotland had wagered £3.7 billion on FOBTs for the year up to December 2016.

According to a Guardian news report, nearly 14 percent of males in the 16 to 24 year old bracket currently use FOBTs. The gaming industry has been accused of clustering FOBTs on high streets of economically disadvantaged areas. Anti-gambling activists have labeled the machines as the crack cocaine of gambling. It is estimated that 43 percent of FOBT users are problem gamblers or at risk of becoming one.

In a statement, Matt Zarb-Cousin Campaign for Fairer Gambling spokesman said

That the problem gambling rate is increasing tells us all we need to know about the efficacy of self-regulation and so-called player protection measures the industry have introduced. We now have over 200,000 problem or at risk gamblers in Scotland. At the least, the Government must recommend a reduction in the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2 a spin

He urged the ruling party SNP to limit the spread of the betting shops by strengthening planning laws for betting shops. The party had mentioned FOBTs in its general election manifesto stating that the machines were harming communities, but so far no action has been
taken.

The UK Government is expected to release a report in the coming weeks on FOBTs which is likely to include a cap on the betting amount per spin.