Bookies and payday lenders must be kept apart

FOR most people, gambling means buying the occasional Lottery ticket or having a flutter on the Grand National.

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But for many others, the temptation to place large bets in the hope of even larger returns is too much to resist. These days, it is easier than ever before to lose huge sums of money in the blink of an eye.

A recent phenomenon in the city's 200 bookies are fixed odds betting terminals which allow punters to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds.

Around 800 of the money -making machines exist on our high streets and each year city gamblers feed them with an extraordinary £200million.

Recent research carried out by the city council has found gamblers will lose around £32m each year.

No doubt some people can afford to lose their money on a spin of the wheel which requires no skill. But there are many more who can't and, to help them feed their habit, they are turning to high-interest payday lending firms who are increasingly opening close to bookmakers.

It is a trend which worries city councillors and recently they launched what is believed to be the first attempt in Britain to gauge the impact of the high-stakes gambling machines.

Across Britain, the controversial fixed odds terminals take in around £1.5billion each year - more than horse racing, dog racing and football betting combined.

A council sounding board chaired by City Treasurer Paul Rooney carried out an in-depth investigation.

The report does not make for comfortable reading, suggesting fixed odds terminals are increasingly being used by the least well-off in society.

That can result in serious money worries, health problems, stress and marriage break-ups.

City councillors insist the negative impact of fixed odds machines means the regulation of gambling should take into account the impact on public health.

And they want Scottish Ministers to give local authorities the same power as councils in England and Wales who can use the planning system to stop betting shops setting up in clusters on high street.

Councillors say they are also deeply concerned at the lack of appropriate controls on fixed odds machines and the speed and frequency at which bets can be placed.

Gambling is a massive industry and the city council will have a battle to reign it in.

Glasgow has never been frightened of a fight with the big boys and hopefully it will succeed in its efforts to protect vulnerable people who need saving from themselves.

But it requires the Scottish Government to give them the weapons it needs to curb the number of bookies setting up in communities cheek by jowl with payday lenders.

Local government

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