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When she decamped to her mother’s home, Justyn’s addiction spiralled out of control. He lived off a sack of potatoes and pawned everything he could find.‘I sold my tailored suits for the price of a tea towel and I gambled away my son’s Christening silver and a Bible engraved with his name. Our managers tell us not to call the police if it’s only the shop or the machines that are vandalised.

I genuinely believed that the next roulette spin would win back the lot.’AS Marcia continues to play at the bookies, the sole cashier behind the counter, Juanita, is beginning to look anxious. All across Britain, the tide of violence in bookies has been escalating.

The William Hill betting shop around the corner from Victoria station in Central London is alive with noise, but Harry is in a world of his own, mesmerised by the flashing screen, his fingers frantically tapping out bets on a sea of digitised green ‘felt’.

He slides off the stool and disappears to the counter at the front of the shop, wallet in hand.

This week, two of the largest bookmakers, William Hill and Ladbrokes, are set to announce that for the first time each FOBT machine is pulling in £1,000 a week , the first time it has reached four figures.

Meanwhile, the numbers involved have been increasing.

It is believed fraudsters pay cash into the terminal, making low-risk bets that involve a small relative loss, then withdraw most of the proceeds as a voucher which is exchanged for cash at the shop counter.

The California law reduces the offense from a felony punishable by 3 to 8 years in prison to a misdemeanor that carries a 6-month prison term.It is past 6pm and a much rougher crowd will soon stream through the door, jockeying for the four FOBTs. In London alone, the Metropolitan Police has investigated 600 violent crimes in bookmakers in the past 12 months. ’While the Association of British Bookmakers insists the machines have not fostered a huge increase in addiction, Simon Perfitt, 59, says they are ignoring a ticking time bomb.Industry insiders estimate that one in five machines have been vandalised. And there are notices telling people to take breaks, that sort of thing. A recovering FOBT addict, Simon blew £200,000 in ten years.‘Those Fixed Odds Betting Terminals destroy you,’ he says. I went in at a friend’s urging and that was all it took. All day, every day.‘The bookies,’ he explains, ‘have taken advantage of a loophole in the tax system.Part of their addictive appeal is the fact that over the short-term they can let you win.FOBTs offer a return for the punter of between 88 and 97.6 per cent – or put it another way, the addict will inevitably lose.

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