LONDON — Dotted among the fried-chicken joints, pawn shops and Eastern European grocery stores on the main street of London’s East Ham neighborhood, the ubiquity of one type of outlet might seem alien to American visitors.
NBC News counted 15 betting shops while wandering a 1.3-mile stretch of High Street North on a recent afternoon.
“Residents hate it,” said Julianne Marriott, who represents the area on theLondon Borough of Newham’s council. “There are very few people who think it’s a good thing.”
With the industry changing rapidly within the U.K. — due largely to the advent of apps and online betting — it’s unclear what the world of sports gambling will look like even a few years from now.
But following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month to strike down a federal law that required states to ban gambling on the outcome of sporting events, Britain’s £13.8 billion-a-year betting industry $18.4 billion may offer a glimpse into America’s future.
There are 8,351 betting shops across the U.K. They take bets on a range of sporting events, including soccer, cricket, rugby and horse racing, as well as the NFL and Major League Baseball.
High Street North in East Ham made national headlines in 2013 for having the highest proliferation of bookmakers of any place in the U.K.
Advertisements for gambling brands are also common during televised sporting events, agen piala dunia with some promoting the opportunity to place real-time bets on things that may happen seconds later.
But the adrenaline rush that comes with having money riding on a goal or a touchdown isn’t the whole story.
Britain’s Gambling Commission regulator in 2017 suggested that the number of problem gamblers had risen by about one-third, to 430,000 people, in just three years. The U.K. has a population of around 66 million.
Mark Potter, 37, a former professional rugby player, says his gambling addiction started with a visit to a so-called high-street bookmaker — the legal shops that appear on Britain’s equivalent of Main Street.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back was that I sold my wife’s engagement ring and sold my kids’ stuff to gamble with,” Potter told NBC News.
Potter says that “very low point” was preceded by “stealing money, and getting arrested for committing fraud.” He also lost his job.
“I carried on betting, that didn’t make me want to stop,” said Potter, who lives in the northwest of England and now works for a company that educates athletes about the risk of gambling. “If you’re a problem gambler, you’ll always find a way to place a bet.”
Those issues have been exacerbated by another modern trend in the industry. Despite high-street bookies being a traditional hub for sports betting since the 1960s, most are now dominated by highly addictive fixed-odds betting terminals.
A type of electronic slot machine, the betting terminals are accused of targeting some of the most vulnerable people in British society and contributing to the growing number of problem gamblers.
Peter Nicholls Image: Fixed odds betting terminalsCustomers are currently able to bet up to £100 $133 every 20 seconds playing virtual games of roulette or bingo on fixed-odds betting terminals. The U.K. government last month announced that the maximum stake would be reduced from £100 to £2 in 2019.