Are Children At Risk Of Getting Addicted To Fruit Machines?

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Craig Talbot, the latest addition to the Young Academic team and new Staffordshire University correspondent, reported earlier this week on a worring increase in students gambling to raise extra funds. Today’s feature is of a similar ilk and highlights the appeal of fruit machines to students and also young children.

What is seen by the unknown as a set of blinking, flashing lights on a machine, can simply be for others a luring bottomless pit of regret that can take every single penny of a person’s weekly money.

Fruit machines can just be mere entertainment while enjoying a drink for some but others end up ploughing notes and notes of their hard earned money into them with no return.

But why is this? The finger can of course be pointed at people’s will power but is it addiction that has set in at a young age through no fault of their own?

The majority of the public may not know but Category D £5 jackpot fruit machines can legally be played by children, these types of machines can be found at famous seaside resorts such as Blackpool and Great Yarmouth but many entertainment establishments such as arcades across the country contain £5 jackpot machines.

Are these types of machines simply creating gambling addicts for the future? Introducing gambling to children could potentially lead to a future of dread and money issues for many. These types of machines work completely identically to higher stake fruit machines and could be the children of this generation’s first step into the gambling world.

James, 20, from Warwickshire regularly plays fruit machines and admitted that he started at a surprisingly young age.

James explained “I started playing fruit machines when I was around 13; I started when I saw the older kids at the bowling alley playing and winning money and thought that it was a good idea, no one showed me how to play, i just picked it up.”

“I currently spend between £20 and £40 a week on fruit machines, sometimes more, depending on how many times I go to a pub.

“I think that 5 pound jackpot machines draw younger people into gambling because at that age paper rounds can pay just £10 a week so to many people the chance to earn a week’s wage or weekly pocket money off a few quid is a major draw in.”

A 2010 prevalence study did show that among those who gambled earlier in life, the incidence of problem gambling was higher.

Type fruit machine into a search engine and you are met with pages upon pages of emulators, videos showing people winning jackpots and people selling fruit machines for cut prices on websites such as eBay. Information like this glamorises fruit machines and in a time where the average child and teenager can easily navigate their way through the internet this is a concern.

Fruit machines manufacturing is a competitive business and one of the major manufactures of these fruit machines is Bell Fruit Games, who have in past created fruit machines with £70, £35 and £5 jackpots.

Peter Farrell is the director games design at Bell Fruit Games and firmly believes that there is not an issue among children gambling on fruit machines.

Peter Farrell said “At the seaside and at beach fronts, fruit machines are popular with children but no I don’t think at all that fruit machines introduce people, especially children to gambling.

“In my personal opinion they provide a past time and because they do not have very high jackpots, provide people with entertainment, they’re not serious, they are just plain fun.

“The percentage of people who play fruit machines is very low, only around 7-8% of people who go into a pub actually play them, the market has shrunk as most modern pubs do not think they fit into the decor.”

Fruit machines have never been seen as addictive or as much of an issue in the gambling world but have no doubt been a starting base for so many gambling addicts.

James North, the Joint Public Issues Team’s policy officer of the Methodist Church of Great Britain wants to see low stake fruit machines abolished and explained that these types of machines can become addictive for young people and has recently gone to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee to plea for the laws to be changed.

“Legislation exists to allow children to be prohibited from using Category D fruit machines. The Methodist Church would be interested in seeing Government seriously consider enacting this prohibition.”

Currently it seems there are no plans for the government to change this prohibition over Category D fruit machines even after the 2010 prevalence study revealed the dangers.

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