More than £99.5million has been gambled at betting shops across Dacorum, latest figures suggest.
There are 21 licences for bookies’ premises in the borough, with 16 of these in Hemel Hempstead.
Estimates from the Campaign for Fairer Gambling show that of the cash pumped into potentially dangerous pastime, £18,523,408 has been inserted into fixed-odds betting terminals.
Hemel Hempstead accounts for the majority of this type of gambling, with £14,113,072 thought to have been passed through the slots.
The roulette-like machines allow gamblers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds with cash or using a debit card. Normal betting machines have a fixed stake of £2.
The amount lost to punters in the borough is thought to be more than £3.7million, with over £2.8million lost in Hemel Hempstead.
Gamblers across the country lost an estimated total of £1.565million was lost on the often addictive devices last year alone, with a total of £7.8million cash inserted into the FOBTs.
Despite the eye-watering figures, Hemel Hempstead debt charity Christians Against Poverty cited relationship breakdown and benefits loss as the biggest causes of debt in the area, with gambling problems being in the minority for the local people it supports.
But the Campaign for Fairer Gambling wants the maximum stake on FOBTs reduced to £2 spin to bring them in line with other gaming machines in the UK. It is aiming to gather public support to put pressure on the government to take action on the machines, which it dubs the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’.
Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Hemel Hempstead Tony Breslin has pledged to write to Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport Sajid Javid and Prime Minister David Cameron to call for an immediate reduction in the stake and has urged other politicians in the area to follow suit.
This isn’t simply having a flutter. These machines are designed to maximise profit and the result is ruined lives and communities.Tony Breslin
He said: “This isn’t simply having a flutter. These machines are designed to maximise profit and the result is ruined lives and communities.
“Research has shown there are four times as many betting shops in poorer areas as there are in better off areas. Clearly there is a problem here and it is time to make a stand.”
Licensing for high street bookmakers is undertaken by Dacorum Borough Council, with most gambling activities are regulated under the Gambling Act 2005.