Bingo halls are increasingly featuring high stakes slot machines, with the numbers of these machines increasing three-fold over the past five years. The very look and feel of bingo halls has changed tremendously in consequence; the places are filled with slots machines and it is hard to avoid their loud noises and flashing lights.
It?s not surprising that slot machines generated around ?304 million in revenues for bingo operators last year, while there hasn?t been any growth in bingo operations.
Take the example of a bingo hall picked at random in East London. It works all week and stays open till 2.30 am. The entrance hall alone has 90 slot machines in all so that customers have to walk past them in order to play bingo. There are a few more machines inside the hall. Of all the machines, 22 accept high stakes. These Vegas style machines have at least two touch screens and they also have a stool for players to sit on. These high stakes machines allow players to wager ?2 per spin every few seconds, and they accept only bank notes.
These slot machines are no doubt very attractive but they have also led to many instances of problem gambling. Players, many of whom might have won a bit of money occasionally, end up gambling away a great deal of money because of their desire to keep gambling. In fact, it is not uncommon for people to have wagered and lost thousands of pounds in one sitting. Lots of people have lost their businesses and even their marriages thanks to their addiction to B3 slot machines as these high stakes machines are known.
Long time visitors to bingo halls point out that the atmosphere has changed very much ever since slot machines have made their appearance here. There are many instances of people crying or worrying over the amount of money they lost. In their frenzy to keep playing, many people play the same game on different machines at the same time. Throughout it all, employees at the casino would do nothing to remind people to gamble responsibly.
One particular slots player admitted to having gambled away ?70,000 at the slot machines placed at bingo halls.
She later on lost another ?150,000 playing slots on a number of bingo websites. She even contemplated suicide because of the huge amount of money she had gambled away.
Gambling Becoming A Serious Problem
A survey of players at bingo halls revealed that 2.5% of them had a serious addiction to gambling. This is much higher than the overall levels of gambling addiction in the United Kingdom which varies from 0.5% to 0.9%. Interestingly, 4.2% of the slot machine players at bingo halls have admitted to having a serious gambling problem. More worryingly, a whopping 40.3% of these people also showed at least one sign of risky behaviour but not exactly gambling addiction.
The problems associated with slot machines began in 2011 as a result of the government?s relaxation of the rules concerning licensed bingo halls. Initially, companies were permitted only eight of these B3 machines per license. However, the rules now permit them to place up to 20% of all the gambling machines on the location.
The UK Gambling Commission initially expected 690 new gaming machines to be installed in the different bingo halls, but the number has risen to 10,014.
The bingo industry seems quite unconcerned by the rise in problem gambling, saying that it is only responding to higher customer demand by installing extra machines. Even so, the Bingo Association has started training staff to recognize addictive behaviour. The anti-gambling campaign is also pressing for increased protection for players in light of the developments.