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Tuesday, 20 March, 2001, 17:30 GMT
Fears raised over fruit machine cards
Fruit machine
New fruit machines will accept 20 notes
Gamblers' families could suffer if the government allows new slot machines which use smartcards and banknotes, says a charity specialising in gambling addiction.

Gamblers Anonymous has criticised the plans, which would let fruit machines pay out and be played in bank notes or smart cards as well as coins.

New rules would allow gaming machines in pubs, clubs, betting shops and arcades to accept bank notes and electronic smart cards and pay out winnings in notes or coins, or add credits to the player's smart card.

The change would allow punters to win bigger jackpots but also increases the danger of degenerate gamblers blowing their weekly pay packets, leaving their families to go hungry or go into debt.

The law relating to under-18s would be unaffected, and gaming machines which accept bank notes or smart cards would have to allow players to make a fresh decision to play at intervals of 2 or less, while 20 would be the maximum denomination of note which could be used.

This is not good news - it's another way of increasing the gambling ability in this country. We are becoming a total nation of gamblers

Gamblers Anonymous
Home Office minister Mike O'Brien said: "These proposals aim to reduce burdens on business and give greater flexibility to machine manufacturers, suppliers and the betting public.

"In today's technologically advanced gaming industry, any system which permits only coin-based transactions is quite obviously outdated and in need of reform.

"Our proposals will be particularly welcomed by anyone who has had to make their way home with a jackpot in one pound coins weighing down their pockets."

Gambling increase

A spokesman for Gamblers Anonymous said: "How many people have to make their way home with a jackpot weighing down their pocket? One in 1,000, one in 10,000?

"This is not good news - it's another way of increasing the gambling ability in this country. We are becoming a total nation of gamblers.

"Gamblers Anonymous is not against gambling as an industry, it is against the factors that promote compulsive gambling, the ease of gambling, such as heavy advertising of the lottery.

"It is a few years before we see the effects - we are now starting to see people who have been involved in the Lottery and scratchcards."

Even with the new technology, there is some way to go before UK fruit machines match the huge pay-outs in the United States.

One customer at a Las Vegas casino recently won $37m after staking just 27.

The first episode of BBC1's three-part series on gambling, High Stakes, will be broadcast at 2235GMT on Tuesday.

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12 Apr 99 | Sci/Tech
Online betting - raising the stakes
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