Monday, June 24, 2024

‘I gambled £100k in Coral before staff stepped in’ – BBC News

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  • By Nick Clark
  • Local Democracy Reporting Service

Image caption, John says he would visit the betting shop near Sandhurst multiple times a day

A gambling addict has claimed he was allowed to spend £100,000 at a bookmakers before staff intervened.

John said he visited the College Town branch of Coral in Berkshire up to three times a day for a year – and had even told staff he had blocked himself from gambling online.

But despite rules that state shops must step in if they think a gambler is at risk, the 40-year-old said he was allowed to keep betting.

Coral was approached for comment.

“I don’t feel I have to wake up every morning and spend my money. But when I do gamble, I gamble heavily.”

Since moving into the area in December 2022, John said he had spent more than £100,000 in Coral and estimated that he had lost at least a third of that.

Betting shops should try to “minimise the risk” of harm to customers, according to industry regulator the Gambling Commission.

This includes identifying which customers might be at risk of harm from gambling and interacting with them.

‘I’m not wealthy’

John said staff occasionally asked him if he was OK to carry on betting.

But he also claimed to have been given tips on how to avoid triggering a block on his bank account, such as betting small amounts at a time.

It was only once he had spent £100,000 in a year that John said he was asked whether he could afford to keep gambling and stopped being served.

He said: “I would probably go in there once or twice a day and spend anywhere between £200 and £1,500 a day. They know me in there. They know I work, but they know I’m not wealthy.”

He added: “I’ve got a good job. I’ve had savings, and when it’s escalated I’ve taken out loans – one £20,000 loan and two £25,000 loans. But nobody asked me where the money came from.”

If you’ve been affected by the issues in this story, help and support is available via the BBC Action Line

John’s story follows reports that the government is considering tougher affordability checks for gamblers, to ensure they do not spend beyond their financial means.

He said his gambling habit was his responsibility – but felt Coral was not paying “due care and attention” to its customers.

A spokesperson for the Gambling Commission did not comment on John’s case, instead pointing to rules that state “operators must step in where they have concerns that a customer’s behaviour may indicate they are experiencing or at risk of experiencing harm associated with their gambling”.

The LDRS has approached Coral and the Public Protection Partnership – which handles gambling licenses in Bracknell Forest – for comment, but has not yet received a response from either.

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