CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Why the CNJ should stop calling Kilburn, the ‘Bookmakers’ Mile’

FOBT player who lost thousands writes about how the £2 cap will not be enough

01 August, 2019 — By Blue Gibson

WHAT good does calling the Kilburn High Road the “Bookmakers’ Mile” do for anyone?

The Camden New Journal must repeat this nickname to make the stories on gambling more interesting but it is not fun. There is no winning in going to a betting shop every day when you should be doing something else instead.

The machines that cost me are called fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) and they have been all over the news.

You may not like the government but it has at least listened to this and restricted the amount you can bet on the machines to £2. Last year you could go into betting shops and only a couple of older men would be watching the horses and the greyhounds.

It can be like a club for them that is better than an old people’s home.

The rest were people like me, in their twenties or thirties, who were crowded around a screen cheering when a roulette ball landed in the right slot or wanting to punch the thing when it went in the wrong slot.

I work on programming projects at home, so I sort of decided when I could be working and when I could be working on what was my “second job”. If I could make a certain amount of money from the machines each week it was going to be a supplement to my income. This is how it started and continued for two years.

They say the worst thing that can happen is you win.

I won £200 on my first time on the machines when I was bored one week and fooled myself into thinking it could be £200 a day for me every day if I was smart.

You never stop thinking you can be the clever one and beat the odds, but sooner or later you are stuck and trying to win back money that you have lost.

Any human being who can lose £300 in five minutes and not feel like you are burning, and need to win it all back, is from a different planet.

The staff in the shops in Kilburn must be unsure. They can see us throwing more money into these FOBTs, which is good for their employers, which means they would not really feel they can say, “why don’t you stop?”

A pub landlord would do this because a drunk man might smash their glasses or scare customers away, but in a betting shop, people hardly look at you if you shout out. I thought I had a system which you probably thought of too, doubling up stakes to cover losses.

Red can come up 15 times in a row but you will be waiting for black, and by then you are running out of money and even the old limits stop you doubling anymore.

Then you bet like a madman, hoping for the impossible to happen to save you, and the impossible won’t happen.

I’ve lost tens of thousands in Kilburn and other places. The only way of coming back to a normal life always seems like it is to keep on gambling.

To everybody: please don’t do it.

You will never win. If you did win, you would think you could always win and you would lose again.

It’s not a golden mile at all.

I have had help from my family and counsellors, but it’s still hard not to look into a betting shop window. There is less of a crowd around the machines and – as the New Journal reported – some shops are closing.

But I think the government must do more. If you ban drugs, they go underground. If you stop FOBTs, the same will happen, but it just ends up on the internet.

There are places online that are run by big companies where you can still bet on a computer screen, on computer cards, or computer roulette. You don’t have to wait for the shops to open and you can lose very quickly.

This will mean there are still lots of addicts – you just won’t see them hanging around Kilburn.

l If you are having problems with gambling, you can contact GamCare for free on 0808 8020 133 or seek help on its website www.gamcare.org.uk

l The author was writing under pseudonym to protect their identity.

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