Pathological gambling specialist says fruit machines are where people learn and can get hooked on gambling

The TimesOnline reports that Dr Emanuel Moran, a specialist adviser on pathological gambling at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, is opposed to a UK Gambling Commission decision that the level of prizes in UK fruit machines should be allowed to be increased.

"Fruit machines are one of the most addictive forms of gambling, so this decision is deeply worrying," Dr, Moran told the newspaper. "Of all the different types of gambling, it is fruit machines that act as a "learning device", where people get hooked on the idea of gambling."

The specialist pointed out that once gamblers become addicted on fruit machines, they often move on to other kinds of gambling, particularly online gambling, and try to recoup their losses.

"I'm not against gambling — I do it myself," said Dr. Moran "But it is a highly addictive activity and public policy needs to encourage moderation. To increase the prizes is definitely not in line with the stated purpose of the Gambling Act: to limit problem gambling.

"The size of the prize undoubtedly increases participation - the best example is what happens in the National Lottery, when a rollover produces a tremendous increase in the number of people who take part.

Dr. Moran is critical of the Gambling Commission, saying that every time there has been a change to the UK gambling laws since the Gambling Act was passed it has become easier for the promoters to make more money out of the punters.

"I think the Gambling Commission has not been as tough as it ought to be," the specialist opined. "It is generally recognised that the success or otherwise of the Gambling Act is very much determined by the Commission's approach.

"This is illustrated by the commission's reaction to the [UK gambling] prevalence study, which determined the levels of gambling in Britain. That showed that fixed-odds betting terminals, spread betting, betting exchanges and online gambling have a high incidence of producing problem gambling.

"The Commission's reaction, however, was that one could not draw any conclusions about "causality" from this. It has adopted the view that unless the evidence of harm is utterly obvious, it is going to turn a blind eye. It has not shown itself to be the kind of watchdog that it ought to be."

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