The phrase ‘you never see a poor bookie’ has stayed with me as long as I care to recall so, apart from a flutter on the Grand National and the occasional euro lottery ticket on big jackpot nights, I’ve never seen the appeal of gambling. Sadly, plenty of others find it more difficult to resist and, with the Gambling Commission’s deeply disappointing report caving in to industry pressure, more will be lured in to spin the wheels of the iniquitous fixed-odds betting terminals.
At the very heart of the UK’s hidden epidemic of problem gambling, the government look set to ignore all moral argument to cut the FOBT stake to two quid and it seems likely it will be set around the £30-50 mark. Advocating for such a reduction are the massed radical ranks of Labour, the Lib Dems, DUP, 93 local councils, the Church of England, Gambling Anonymous and all manner of ex-addicts turned campaigners and their support groups. Those arguing for a much higher rate include the Tories, the chancellor and…er, the gambling industry itself.
Every high street in the country bears testament to their proliferation and 81 bookmakers in Newham alone is evidence that these organisations target areas where people are poor and desperate, and willing to risk everything on a spin of the wheels. Sir Robin Wales, mayor of Newham believes that these machines, with an average yearly net profit of £50k+ each, have sucked at least £20m out of his borough alone. Unsurprisingly, shares in William Hill and Ladbrokes Coral rose over 4% after the news of the Commission’s suggestions were published. Wish I’d’ve had a flutter!
So, speaking of money, when exactly was the last time you ‘spent a penny’? To ‘spend a penny’ metaphorically at Waterloo Station will cost you a darn sight more than a penny, twenty of them to be precise. And to ‘spend a penny’ literally is, as far as I can work out, near-on impossible, with the once ubiquitous 1p (or even 1d in my memory) black-jacks, fruit salad, white mice, cola- bottles and pink shrimps deserting our sweet shop shelves many years ago. To my mind, copper coinage is now almost worthless and is more of a hassle that it’s worth. But not according to our beloved government.
Oh no, with its finger on the pulse society’s desires, and not to mention a leak to The Daily Mail, they’ve decided, in their infinite wisdom, to continue with these defunct denominations, that represent virtually nothing to anyone. Ironically the industry making the most fuss over this was, yep, you’ve guessed it, the gambling and amusements industry. Ms May’s response to the supposed coin crisis lacks metal (sic) on all fronts and you can see she’s not one for hedging her bets where tax revenues and big-business are concerned. When will the penny finally drop?