Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Brits hooked on bookies' spin/win machines

E-poker is a truly international racket
By Alice Ross, Reprinted with permission from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
It’s 10am and already there’s a knot of men at the back of the betting shop. The strip-lit space is filled with the chatter of racing commentary, but the clients aren’t paying attention. Instead, they’re intently focused on a bank of tall touchscreen machines near the counter.
A man in his sixties in a tatty hat is playing poker games on two machines at once; to either side of him younger men play digital roulette. It’s been half an hour since anybody placed a sports bet, but each of the shop’s four gaming terminals is busy.
By the time he leaves he’s lost £260, and it’s barely 11am. As a painter and decorator Mikheil earns £400 a week. But this week there’s no work, and he’s whiling away the mornings playing high-speed roulette.
It’s one of those things you do, and you know it’s not good, but you do it anyway,’ he says. ‘Even when you win and take your money, it’s not enough – you’ll just lose it again next time.’
Within a half-mile stretch there are eight betting shops, including a cluster of four surrounding the post office. You can place a bet inmore places than you can buy a newspaper; bookmakers outnumber banksby four to one.(click here for a local perspective)
All through the afternoon, the crowds in the bookmakers thicken; by 7pm they’re more popular than ever. They will stay open until 10pm.
And although the shops’ windows are plastered with football odds and their interior hums with racing commentary, for much of the day the gaming machines are the main attraction. Men – it is almost always men – charge in to play for 20 minutes, or linger for hours in a trance-like state.

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