Scottish Gambling Rates Top the UK Average

Scotland has been named as the “gambling capital” of the UK according to statistics published by the Gambling Commission.

Matt Zarb-Cousin Scottish gambling.

Responsible gambling advocate Matt Zarb-Cousin has called for the government to do more after Scotland is named the UK’s gambling capital. (Image: Jay Akbar/YouTube)

Punching way above its weight in terms of money wagered on casino, poker and sports, Scotland’s latest title will be seen as yet another ominous accolade by some.

However, unlike the 2015 NHS study that proclaimed Scotland as the drinking capital of the UK, the UK Gambling Commission’s (UKGC) at least suggest the country now enjoys a less physically damaging pastime.

Scots Betting Big on FOBTs

According to the data, 68 percent of Scots have gambled in the last 12 months which is a full 16 percent points higher than people in London. In line with the UKGC’s findings, a report compiled by Landman Economic revealed that Scottish players spent £3.7 billion on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in 2016.

This figure comes in spite of the fact gambling machines in the UK are on the decline. The UKGC’s most recent industry insights show that the number of FOBTs available in the UK stood at 176,140 between October 2015 and September 2016. This figure is 0.2 percent down on the total number of active FOBTs counted between April 2015 and March 2016.

Although the number of FOBTs has dipped slightly in recent months, it hasn’t stopped anti-gambling advocates from lobbying the government. Recent reports that Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has brushed aside a report into FOBTs promoted backlash from a number of MPs.

Stats Could Renew Push for Scottish Independence

In light of this and the recent statistics from the UKGC, Matt Zarb-Cousin, a spokesman for Campaign for Fairer Gambling, has called for the Scottish government to take action.

“At the least, the Government must recommend a reduction in the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2 a spin. The SNP should limit the spread of FOBTs by strengthening planning laws on betting shops,” Zarb-Cousin told the Scotsman.com.

Legislating for this, however, is something Westminster has been unwilling to do in recent years. With calls for such regulation not making much of an impact on the UK Government, it would be tricky for the Scotland’s ruling party (the Scottish National Party) to make a call on this without Westminster’s approval.

This is something that those in favour of Scottish independence may now use to bolster their argument. Taking the opinion that the Scottish National Party is unable to effectively regulate gambling, those in favour of independence may suggest this is a reason for Scotland to have full control of its affairs.

At this stage, the fact remains that Scotland is the gambling capital of the UK. However, with the UKGC due to publish a report into the state of play in England later this year, it may be an unwanted crown that Scotland can shake off fairly soon.

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