Labour MP and former cabinet minister Harriet Harman has spoken out to admit that moves by the previous Labour Government to deregulate the gambling industry had "ruined people's lives", reports The Daily Telegraph.
The statement comes amidst reports that UK gamblers are putting up to £46bn per year on machines known as 'Fixed Odds Betting Terminals' (FOBTs).
FOBTs offer a higher pay-out than traditional gambling machines and allow players to stake up to £100 on each turn.
The machines are considered highly dangerous by gambling addiction charities, as they can fool punters into playing for much longer. It is estimated that the machines are now taking more money than dog and horse racing combined.
The most likely victims according to a study by the University of Birmingham are young men in the 16-24 age bracket.
The law concerning gambling was changed in the Gambling Act 2005, which was introduced by Tony Blair but not fully implemented until Gordon Brown became PM. It allows bookmakers to install up to four FOBT machines on each premises. Since the introduction of the law, 300 new high-street bookmakers have opened.
An investigation by Channel 4's Dispatches programme, due to air tonight Monday 6 August, will show that many of the new bookmaker's stores are being opened in poorer areas. The programme shows that there are 12 bookmakers per 100,000 head of population in low income areas compared to five per 100,000 in more affluent areas.
Harriet Harman told the programme: "If we had known then what we know now we wouldn't have allowed this, because it's not just ruining the high street it's ruining people's lives."
Yet despite the negative impact of these machines on low income families, MPs on the Culture Committee last month called for a change in the law to allow more FOBT machines to be installed on bookmaker's premises, saying that laws restricting gambling were a blight on local and regional economies.
British gamblers losing more than £1 billion a year (The Telegraph)