The problems associated with the kinds of gambling machines now to be found in betting shops throughout Britain’s towns and cities, tending to be concentrated in poorer areas, are becoming so well-known that they now feature in primetime television drama. To quote from last week’s Radio Times, ‘Jimmy McGovern’s highly charged, probing drama [‘Broken’, BBC1, Tuesdays 9.00 pm] shifts its focus each week, bringing us a different troubled soul for Father Michael (Sean Bean) to help, or try to. This time the spotlight falls on Roz, the middle-aged mother of three who has confessed she plans to kill herself. She is a woman who can cope with anything except the shame she knows is about to break over her head. Addicted to gambling machines in betting shops, she has embezzled huge sums from her boss’.
It turns out that the amount Roz has lost on gambling machines over a few years is a little short of £250,000. The shame she feels and her thoughts of suicide are well known accompaniments of such a gambling addiction. They are just the kinds of things that appear regularly in comments posted on the Gambling Watch UK website. Also appearing in last week’s episode of Broken was a representative of the betting company that wanted to set up yet another betting shop in the local high street. As the industry does, she argued that the betting shops brought much-needed employment opportunities. To be fair, she was silenced and appeared stunned when Roz appeared to tell her story. Father Michael, the central character in the series, tried, sadly unsuccessfully, to turn Roz’s shame into productive anger at the proliferation of betting shops with their high-powered addictive machines.