Posted April 24, 2014 by John Baintree in News

Police callouts to bookmakers average 165 a week


As focus on the seedy underbelly of High Street gambling that is the Fixed Odds Betting Terminal (FOBT) remains as glaring and sharp as ever, attention now begins to switch to the issues of money laundering using these terminals.

If it wasn’t bad enough being labelled the “crack cocaine of gambling” these machines which allow punters to gamble up to £100 every 20 seconds in the relative privacy of the bookies, are now being aligned closely with money laundering.

Initially thought to be the preferred method of legitimising funds for local drug dealers there is now focus on bigger players further up the food chain who may be using the same means of laundering their more significant proceeds.

Labour MP Tom Watson upped the stakes in the FOBT wars somewhat by raising the prospect of a ban at Prime Ministers Questions to which David Cameron replied with an assurance that the government was to take a “proper” look at the issues.

The Gambling Commission released figures following a freedom of information request, detailing an average of 165 reported call outs to incidents in bookies premises every week. A total of 8,599 a year included just 98 suspicious incidents where possible money laundering activity was being reported.

These machines are clearly a magnet that attracts undesirable activity, why else would more than 8,000 incidents a year, drawing unwanted publicity to bookies premises be reported. Surprising though, is the low number of incidents of possible money laundering given the interest in the subject, or perhaps it is not necessarily so surprising.

The industry currently takes the position that hardly an money laundering activity is taking place in their premises and is vigorously arguing that new European Union money laundering regulations should not be applied to them. Why would any legitimate business not want to execute their moral responsibility in the fight against such a society wide problem? Probably because, should the new regulations be applied there will be a massive increase in reported incidents of money laundering. This in turn will increase the focus on the crack cocaine of gambling, leading in turn to a tightening up of rules and maybe even a banning of FOBTs altogether.