Betting shops in the UK are ten times more likely to be found in deprived communities than affluent areas. That’s according to a new study by the University of Bristol that highlights the disproportion between the amenities available in poor areas and wealthier parts of the country.
According to the study, areas categorized by researchers as economically disadvantaged were home to just ten percent of all food stores in the country. But these areas hosted 34 percent of amusement arcades, 30 percent of bingo venues, and 29 percent of adult gaming centers.
Meanwhile, more affluent areas had a much more even spread of services, such as libraries and supermarkets, researchers said.
“The research highlights the clear mismatch between the amenities available in ‘left behind’ areas, compared with those that are more affluent,” said Jamie Evans, senior research associate at the University of Bristol.
Rather than having greater access to the facilities, services, and opportunities that help people to improve their lives, those in more deprived communities are disproportionately faced with choices that can often prove harmful.
“While the gambling industry may offer some much-needed employment in these areas, it usually takes much more than it gives, leaving a legacy of greater hardship and increased social problems.”
Two Percent in Most Affluent Areas
While the number of bookmakers’ shops in the whole country have actually declined over the past few years, researchers note there are still more bookies than stores owned by the country’s big eight supermarket chains.
According to the study, 21 percent of betting shops are located in the poorest 10 percent of the country, with just 2 percent in the most affluent areas.
The betting industry has previously denied targeting poorer areas. A 2014 independent study commissioned by the industry found that new betting shops were opening primarily in towns with low and average deprivation scores, but not in the poorest areas.
In a statement Monday, a spokesman for the Betting and Gaming Council emphasized the industry’s economic contributions. “BGC members support 119,000 jobs, generate £4.5 billion ($6.1 billion) in tax to pay for vital public services, and contribute £7.7 billion ($10.5 billion) to the economy in gross value added.
Betting shops alone employ around 46,000 people across the country, pay £1 billion ($1.4 billion) in tax to the Treasury, as well as £60 million ($82 million) in business rates for local councils, while casinos employ 11,000 staff and pay £500 million ($685 million) a year in tax.”
The UK government is currently undertaking a review of the country’s gambling laws and is expected to tighten regulatory controls on the betting industry.
In 2018, lawmakers slashed the maximum stakes permitted on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 ($137) to £2 ($2.74) amid claims the machines were contributing to social ills. Critics said betting operators were opening more shops in certain areas to increase the quota of machines permitted. The reduction in stakes has since resulted in shop closures.
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