Sunderland academic backs gambling changes to reduce maximum stakes fixed-odds betting machines

A Sunderland psychologist has welcomed moves to reduce gambling stakes.

Wednesday, 30th May 2018, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 30th May 2018, 8:12 am
Dr Helen Knight.

Dr Helen Knight, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Sunderland said gamblers have a primal need to chase the loss which has led to North East gamblers losing millions of pounds on controversial Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals.

The Government recently stepped in to reduce the maximum stake that can be gambled on the FOBT machines, often found in bookmakers across the UK.

The intervention comes amid concerns that North East gamblers are losing massive sums on the terminals, dubbed the ‘crack-cocaine of gambling’.

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Currently, people can bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on the electronic casino games, which Culture Secretary Matt Hancock labelled “a serious social blight”.

Reports suggest in the North East alone, gamblers lost a total of £43m to FOBTs in 2016. Over the past decade, the figure is estimated to be around £300m.

Dr Knight, said: “This is a very positive step by the government. If you look at the industry statistics, which you can find readily available on the Gambling Commission’s website, gaming machines, which include Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals, made a total gross yield of £2.7 billion, which was a 2.6% increase from the previous year.”

Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals are gaming machines which allow people to play virtual games at a terminal in the betting shop.

There are two categories of games available on the gaming machines betting shops are allowed. B3 games have a maximum stake of £2 whilst B2 games have a maximum stake of £100.

Dr Knight, said: “The psychology behind gambling is really interesting, and unfortunately, the gambling industry plays into many of these aspects of human behaviour.

“The leading theory relates to the idea that we learn to gamble. Conditioning is a concept wherein we learn to behave in certain ways via rewards and punishments.”

She said in gamling the positive rewards would be winning money when we win.

Dr Knight, added: “In addition, for machine gambling there is also often a cascade of bright lights, happy sounds and visual praise which adds to that positive reward.”

She said people who are stressed or worried can ofter lose these feelings when they are playing on gaming machines.

Also, she said humans are very immediate creatures, and the punishments from gambling, such as loss of job and family, do not occur immediately after placing a bet.”

On top of all of this, Dr Knight says that winning on betting machines activates the brain in a certain way.

She said: “Winning produces activation in a network of the brain called the mesolimbic dopamine reward network.

“This network has been vital for humans, evolutionarily speaking. We get a biological reward for engaging in certain behaviours which have helped us to survive and

reproduce - behaviours like eating and sexual activity. The problem is that winning a bet also produces activation in this same network.”