Money is scarce, yet like crocodiles at a waterhole the High Street betting industry lurks to snap up what is to spare — and indeed what is not. Five years ago, local councillors claimed Newham High Street North had more bookmakers than any other in the country. There were 18 in total, and 80 in the borough as a whole. No other gaming machine has such high speeds or high stakes. Compared with the old-fashioned fruit machines, they are like a shot of crack cocaine. Such is the capacity for addiction, and the rage sparked by sudden and heavy losses, that the Metropolitan Police have recorded hundreds of violent incidents — including assault — linked to these terminals, as well as suicides.
Which is why allowing under-age schoolchildren anywhere near them is so dangerous. Last month, a landmark Gambling Commission report revealed the number of problem gamblers aged 11 to 16 has quadrupled in two years to 55, It found that , children — one in seven of the age group — was gambling regularly.
So just how rigorous are the betting companies in policing the age of their clients? To find out, I ventured into Newham, as well as other areas of London, with a year-old named Tom. Young for his age, he had never been in a betting shop before, nor tried to buy a drink in a pub. Both activities would be against the law because he is not yet The most startling — and disturbing — finding of our investigation is that of the three major chains that allowed him to bet, William Hill, Paddy Power and Ladbrokes Coral, it was the latter, Britain's biggest High Street betting company, that was most lax.
Shockingly, in around two-thirds — 63pc — of the Ladbrokes premises our schoolboy visited, staff allowed him to play the FOBTs. Yet astonishingly, when confronted with our evidence, the betting industry's representative body expressed concern not that the law forbidding under-age gambling had been breached, but that our investigation had been carried out at all. Tom walks in unchallenged. He takes a seat in front of a roulette-style game and begins to play.
Young for his age, Tom had never been in a betting shop before, nor tried to buy a drink in a pub. He is seen inside the Ladbroke's branch. Tom plays on uninterrupted, before making his presence felt to see if he is asked for ID. Yes, he can. And there's no demand to see Tom's ID. That is good practice, but five nights later at the Ladbrokes branch in Maddox Street, Mayfair, there is another egregious lapse. The betting shop is almost empty, with two staff present — one of whom is on the phone — and Tom settles down to play a roulette-style FOBT.
The danger for regular gamblers, and certainly children who do not have the maturity to control their impulses, is that they'll chase losses by pushing more and more money into the machines. It's only when he approaches staff to change the notes that he is challenged for his ID and then asked to leave.
Over in Argyll Street, opposite the London Palladium, we find a large, subterranean branch of Ladbrokes. It's empty, save for two punters and two women behind the counter. Tom strolls in and sits at a FOBT fruit machine in full view of the staff.
Eventually, he is approached by one of the women, but when he says he's left his ID at home she allows him to continue playing. Over in Hackney, there is another concentration of betting shops in Dalston Junction, a ward with high levels of poverty. At Ladbrokes on the corner of Kingsland Road and Brighton Road, two female staff are chatting, while one sweeps up. It's only when he goes to collect his winnings that a cashier says: 'You look too young.
Neither his winnings nor what he lost are returned. At two other nearby branches, Tom is spotted at once and asked to leave. But when we visit a Ladbrokes opposite King's Cross station on another evening, Tom is ignored and can play a machine. Neither of the branches of Coral including this one, pictured allowed Tom to gamble. The woman behind the counter is on the phone and no one pays attention to Tom. Only when he asks for a note to be split is he asked for ID.
Last night, a Ladbrokes spokesman said: 'We take the prevention of under-age gambling extremely seriously and have a number of robust policies and procedures in place. These include 'Think 21' age verification training.
A full investigation is being carried out, including a review of the CCTV, training logs and interviewing the colleagues involved, to ensure we minimise these incidences in the future. During our investigation, we also visited six Paddy Power shops, two of which allowed Tom to bet. There is a busy branch opposite the Kingsland Centre in Hackney, with many fixed-odds machines.
Tom walks in and plays a Luck Of The Irish machine, which could hardly be more unsuitably named. No ID is asked for. Fittingly, as this takes place, a horse called Reckless Lad wins the 6pm at Dundalk. Of six William Hill shops we visit, one — on a corner facing King's Cross station — allows Tom to play. This despite the fact it is small and almost empty. So whatever the shop, wherever it is, the auditing standards are the same.
Previously, operators were concerned that they could have shops in one part of the country tested by a local authority and fail, while another one of their shops could be tested in a different part of the country by another local authority and pass. There were no national standards in place. This means that all tests are fair and, crucially, consistent. The evidence shows this consistent approach has worked. From being one of the worst offenders, betting shops now top the class, with the highest pass rates of any age-restricted product retailers — a higher pass rate than pubs, supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol stations.
What our audit programmes have shown is that a continuous focus on improving performance around age-restricted sales yields results. In the case of our work with the Betting and Gaming Council, we audit independent bookies, where initially the pass rates were very low, but have now improved significantly.
We know from speaking with the BGC and its members that shop staff have immense pride when they have been given a pass, and take it personally if they get a fail, working hard to make sure it never happens again. The reason for this success is straightforward.
By constantly testing, and then re-testing those who fail, it means staff in betting shops are always focused on this vital part of their work, and are stopping unders from gambling before they have even crossed the threshold. The company provides extensive independent audit services to retailers, leisure operators and sports broadcasters to check that key operational and compliance standards are in place across different areas of their business.
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Free bet expires after 7 days. Payment method restrictions apply. Opt in. Keep what you win. Account opening subject to suitability checks. Spread betting involves risk. Losses can exceed deposits. Which shops are currently open? Shops that are exempt from the Government's ban are food retailers, pharmacies, post offices, banks, newsagents, hardware stores, corner shops, petrol stations, shops in hospital, laundrettes and pet shops.
Since 2nd December , also non-essential shops are allowed to re-open. Choose one of our recommended UK betting sites , register a new betting account and place your bets online! Are betting shops open the same hours? Every betting company has a different opening time and bookies don't have standard opening times across all its stores.
Betting shops opening times have been affected by the restriction on FOBT betting stakes. Here, you can learn how to play FOBTs online with no restrictions. Are betting shops open this weekend? The weekend closing hours may be different for betting shops than other days in the week.
The general rule is that high street bookies are open over the weekend but there could be exceptions during festive weekends. Anyway, wherever you are, you're likely to find a betting shop nearby. What time do the betting shops open today? Bookies are usually open from 9 am in the morning to around 10 pm at night, every day except Sunday.
Bookmakers shop opening times in smaller towns could be shorter. If oyu are looking for today's football tips , we got you covered! Are betting shops open on bank holidays? While many businesses seems to shut down on bank holidays, high stret bookies stay open as general rule. Anyway, it is best to check with the individual store as their opening hours may be reduced.
If you find your bookie closed, no panic. We suggest to visit our best betting apps and new betting sites resources. Are betting shops closed on weekends? Luckily, most of high street bookmakers are open for business over the weekend. Business Minister Jake Berry told the Today programme that he was "sorry for all the people who work in William Hill who'll be worried about their jobs", but he said fixed odds betting terminals "have been described as the crack cocaine of gambling".
We want to see a diverse and vibrant High Street. The government launched a High Streets task force on Friday to advise local authorities trying to revitalise town centres as part of plans announced in the Budget. What are fixed-odds betting terminals? The stakes were reduced to help vulnerable people and problem gamblers. He added that fewer betting shops would make for a more diverse High Street.
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