3 thoughts on “The crack cocaine of gambling?”

  1. Posted 24/04/2013 at 16:27 | Permalink

    I find it very hard to believe that £42 billion is put int these machines every year. That is getting on for £1000 on average for every adult in the country.

    Can this really be so?

  2. Posted 01/05/2013 at 17:11 | Permalink

    Notwithstanding the mathematical polemic presented above, the issue of gambling is a moral one and hopefully it will remain so. Its reduction to a purely utilitarian – economic issue should cause some concern. That £97 are returned as prizes for every £100 put in is meaningless in that context. So what? So what if it returned £99?

    There are age-old, timeless questions that human beings have placed in the moral arena. Why shouldn’t they stay there? Gambling is questioned by every culture almost, the most in the Indo-European cultures. In the Indian semi-religious mythological text Mahabharat, one of things that led to crisis and war was gambling / wagering and its adverse moral outcome keeps coming up to haunt the heroes and villains right through the epic (its the longest epic known to mankind).

  3. Posted 02/05/2013 at 21:56 | Permalink

    As a Labour Party member I find myself in deep shock finding an IEA paper I agree with. It is a shame that you claim that the Gambling Commission scrapped the Gambling Prevalence Survey. That was funded directly by the UK government and was cut by the coalition in those early days of pretend red tape burning. The Association of British Bookmakers has since made clear that the industry is willing to fund it (submission to the triennial review of gaming machine limits).

    You also fail to explain just how dodgy “Fairer Gambling” are with their figures, reproduced by the Guardian, Mail and in most of the articles you quote. The data they used has been published by the Guardian in spreadsheet format which gives it some increased credibility, indeed Caroline Lucas MP when writing to the minister sites the “Guardian” figures. They are here


    The data is misleading for a host of reasons but the worst is that it is all based on counting the number of FOBTs and then assuming that each takes an industry average in wagers. They use total bets not gross yield to make the numbers seem as big as possible. The bigger deception is pretending that the data is local, it is not, it is a national average applied to the FOBT count. for an area. Now the bookmakers are in high streets and these tend to be “poorer” areas but the central claim that they are targeting the poor is false. Bookmakers go for footfall to decide where to set up.

    This January Guardian data is easy to spot as a national very basic model not local data as many constituencies have the exact same figures. Amusingly if you download the full spreadsheet you can see that the total bet claim for the constituency looks precise – ie Birmingham Ladywood £163,067,753 but they do themselves an injustice, the figure in the spreadsheet is far more precise £163,067,753.3333. They are claiming local betting data to the fraction of a penny!

    it gets worse though. The Guardian did a follow up article and this time “Fairer Gambling” give us the FOBT betting and yield figures for every single constituency.


    Now this time non of the constituencies have identical figures, indeed when we download the data we find that the model has been tweaked to give us regional differences. Interestingly the regions match the Euro constituencies, shown only in the downloadable spreadsheet not the article, naturally. From the spreadsheet you can add a column to work out that the model used is again based on an assumed yield per machine – this time the average weekly yield per FOBT has three assumed figures – £657.77 or £967.31 or £1000.31.

    Every London region FOBT yields £1000.66 a week whether it is in Barking or Chelsea.
    The £967.31 yielding machines are in: Eastern Euro Region, South East Euro Region, South West Euro Region, The £657.77 yielding machines are in: East Midlands Euro Region, North East Euro Region, North West Euro Region, Scotland Euro Region, Wales Euro Region, West Midlands Euro Region, Yorkshire and Humber Euro Region.

    Now not explaining this crude model is misleading enough but Fairer Gambling still have the problem of identical constituencies revealing their model.

    Taking just the first two constituencies listed alphabetically -Aberavon and Aberconwy. Both have 9 bookies and 33 machines. They are both in Wales and so the assumed yield per week per machine is the same at £657.77. That is the model and it should give us £657.77*52 weeks*33 machines to give us the gross annual yield of £1,128,733.32 for BOTH constituencies. Instead we have £1,130,990.78664 and £1,131,298.623 listed (though shown to the penny not to the millionth of a penny).

    “Fairer Gambling” have inserted a fudge factor. Aberavon is said to have 33.066 FOBTs in the spreadsheet (though shown as 33) and Aberconwy 33.075 FOBTs (again shown as 33). Each constituency has been individualised by fractionally altering the number of FOBTs in the constituency – but never by enough to alter the model which is always a fixed yield per FOBT depending upon region. The only reason to have this false number for the FOBTs in the calculation is to fudge the figures a little to produce individual constituency figures that are different and so do not reveal how crude the model is. The “fudge factor” is deliberately altering the yield per constituency to hide the simple nature of the model and make it look like a calculation for each constituency. The whole “report” is deceptive – it pretends to give constituency level data but is really a fairly crude model.

    Very deceptive but it has delivered them lots more press coverage at a local level and even let them get the story rehashed for Wales and Scotland.

    It is clear from the spreadsheet that they are using this false data to lobby individual MPs and MEPs – they even list who they are in the spreadsheet to help them lobby. Judging by Caroline Lucas’s letter some MPs have been entirely taken in, they believe this “data” is a real report not a crude model that deliberately misleads regarding what is being spent on these machines by conflating yield with total bets and essentially inventing local data from crude assumptions and a deliberate effort to hide the model used.

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