As you know from previous posts I have worked in the betting industry. This is an industry that often comes under fire from the media, they do love a betting shops ruined my life story! Recently the Government’s review on fixed odds betting terminals (the machines with roulette and slots games on) had helped add fuel to the fire. For anyone who doesn’t know what I am referencing to this review is to look at the stakes in which you can bet on these terminals. At present you can request to do £50 plus spins on many of the roulette games, this essentially means you can spin £100 every few seconds. The government is looking to reduce this to either a maximum of £50, £30, £20 or £2. Because this review has obviously had a lot of interest from the press the general public is also having their say, a lot of people are voicing their opinions and telling stories of how the bookmakers do nothing to support those in need and with serious gambling problems. Because of this, I thought it was about time I told you how hard this job can be when it comes to customers facing addiction.
This genuinely is the hardest part of the job. Not only do you have to serve the customers and ensure they are all content in the store but you are constantly on the lookout for changes in behaviour and alterations in usual habits. If I do spot any of these changes it can be hard to then interact with that customer as a lot of the working day is spent on your own. This means you can’t always get out onto the floor to offer them a drink or quite simply have a little chat with them.
Seeing grown men in tears because they have just chucked £4000 into a machine and lost it breaks me. Trying to explain why you won’t take their money but having to refrain from using the word addiction kills me. And having to hear them say that by not taking their money they will just go and lose more in another betting shop is horrible. They are upset and angry. They take that anger out on the store, the damage the machines and vandalise the store. At that point, we can do no more. At that point, they are barred. Those are the people who can’t admit that they have a problem, but they are the ones who need the most help.
At this point, you are probably wondering what help can we give? As a store not much. I can get you a cup of tea and I can talk to you and listen to you. I can give you a self-exclusion form for the local betting shop and I can tell you about MOSES (multi-operator self-exclusion scheme) where you can elect to ban your self from entering all betting shops and I can tell you about GambleAware and what they can do for you. But I can’t force you to do any of those things. I can’t make you fill out the form or ring the charity. Unfortunately, that is up to you the individual.
Even after these conversations, you will still see people struggling. Sometimes this conversation isn’t enough because not everyone is strong enough to really go out and get the help they need. At that point, I can do no more but watch and keep looking out for these triggers. Keep having that same conversation over again.
Do I think restricting the stakes on the machines will work? I think it will take longer for individuals to lose their money but only being able to stake less is not going to deter them. Instead, maybe we need to be looking at the opening hours of betting shops instead. Is it necessary to be open up to 15 hours a day? Not closing till as late as 10 pm on a Sunday? If the stores weren’t open would people be that annoyed or would they be at home spending time with their families?
I would love to know your opinion on this and if you or anyone you know is affected by gambling-related issues please contact GambleAware.