PEOPLE in our region are gambling more than £370 million a year on instant betting machines, shocking figures reveal.

York Central MP Hugh Bayley called the fixed-odds betting terminals, or FOBTs, the “crack cocaine of gambling”, as MPs prepared to today debate their use in the House of Commons.

Gamblers across our region spent more than £372 million on the machines in 2011/12.

Pressure group the Campaign For Fairer Gambling claims that for every £100 gamblers put into the machines, they get back only £81.50, meaning gamblers in our region will have lost almost £69m. The industry claims the machines pay out £97 for every £100 spent.

There are almost 350 of the terminals in our region, including 98 in York alone.

The machines allow players to bet with cash or using a debit card.

Gamblers can spend up to £100 every 20 seconds, more than four times as fast as the rate of play in casinos.

Last month, Labour nationally claimed betting shops and the fixed-odds machines were being aimed particularly at poor areas, spreading “like an epidemic”.

Mr Bayley said today the machines were highly addictive and that it was “wrong to have taken the most dangerous form of gambling and put it in the most successful place – in the high street”.

A spokesperson for the Stop The FOBTs campaign, who is a former worker in the gambling industry, said: “We have been contacted by people in the York area who are concerned about themselves or others being addicted to FOBTs.”

In one case, he claimed, a York gambler lost £55,000 over four to five years through an addiction to FOBTs.

Mr Bayley told the Press: “The legal framework which allowed the fruit machines to increase their stakes was in 2005 and at the time the Government was worried about super casinos and wanted to address that problem.

“Nobody at that stage foresaw that this FOBT situation would mushroom.”

Labour will today propose that local authorities should be allowed to restrict the number of FOBTs or ban them altogether from the premises. The figures, provided by the Campaign For Fairer Gambling group, are based on a report produced by the Gambling Commission and use average profit per terminal.

A spokesperson from the Association of British Bookmakers said: “It is disappointing to see the livelihoods of the 150 staff who work in York Central betting shops being used a political football in this way.

“Gaming machines have been played in betting shops for 12 years and are popular with our eight million customers.

“In that time no evidence has been produced to show gambling machines in betting shops are more addictive than any other form of gambling.

“Furthermore, the Health Survey for England published in December 2013 shows problem gambling levels have dropped since 2010.”

A City of York Council spokeswoman said: “The council will make any decisions on new legislation depending on what it specifies.”