Gamblers in Wirral are handing over almost £13m a year to bookmakers.

A 2018 annual report from the Director of Public Health has shown bookmakers pocketed £12.9m from Wirral residents in the year 2016/17.

The report describes operators of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in Wirral receiving £58.5m in profits over the last five years, having steadily increased year-on-year.

In Wirral the hardest hit borough is Birkenhead where betting shops netted a £24m profit over the last five years.

Wallasey came in second place at over £17m, with Wirral West and South seeing £8m apiece gambled.

Councillor Chris Jones, cabinet member for adult care and health, said: “FOBTs have rightly been called the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling, with a maximum bet value of £100 enabling gamblers to lose huge sums of money very quickly.

"Often, when gamblers lose money, they spend more and more money trying to recoup losses.

"This can quickly spiral out of control.

“Gambling is a legal activity for anyone over the age of 18 in the UK. It can be an enjoyable and sociable activity when practiced in moderation.

However, the annual report’s findings clearly show that harmful gambling is fast becoming a public health issue in Wirral.”

In-line with the 2005 Gambling Act, all betting shops in Wirral are limited to operating a maximum of four fixed odds betting terminals per shop. Wirral now has 239 FOBT machines across all four constituencies.

Case studies from the report indicate that harmful gambling can lead to, or exacerbate existing, issues including mental health, alcohol and substance misuse and social isolation with some gamblers lashing out at friends and family when they are struggling.

Unlike other harmful practices and addictions, gambling is often seen as acceptable and is supported by aggressive advertising which is not regulated in the same way as advertising for tobacco and alcohol products is.

Councillor Jones continued: “Normalising gambling may lead to gamblers often struggling to accept their issues or have them taken seriously by friends or family.

“In order to support those affected by harmful gambling, we must raise the profile of the issue.

"An honest and frank discussion around harmful gambling is needed in order to better understand, measure and ultimately combat the issue.”

Wirral is working with other authorities across the Liverpool City Region to call for changes in the law to protect people from the harmful effects of FOBTs.