BRITONS lost almost £12.6 billion on gambling last year, a rise of more than a third on five years ago.

Online gambling accounted for almost a third of gambling losses, according to the Gambling Commission, with punters losing £3.63bn to internet betting and online casino and bingo sites.

A record £1.71bn was spent on fixed-odds betting terminals, which have hit the headlines in recent years over concerns they are highly addictive.

Loading article content

Earlier this year peers called for stakes on the machines – typically electronic games such as black jack, roulette and poker, found in betting shops – to be slashed to help avoid addiction. Liberal Democrat Lord Clement-Jones said the gaming machines were “destroying lives and damaging communities”.

The machines, which allow people to place bets of up to £100 at a time, account for 56 per cent of betting shops’ profits, while in-shop betting figures fell.

Campaigners want the maximum stake reduced to £2 to help reduce “serious harm,” deter money laundering and cut betting shop “clustering” on the high streets.

While £12.55bn was lost by punters between October 2014 and September 2015, the actual amount bet was higher as the figure only covers betting losses, not the amount staked.

The commission also reported that although almost 200 high-street bookmakers closed, there are still more than 34,700 in towns and cities in Britain.

The number of bingo halls has fallen by more than 10% in a year and there are now fewer than 600, while the amount of money bet at casinos fell to less than £1bn.

But the 147 casino halls were still visited more than 20 million times from October 2014 to September 2015.

The prevalence of arcade machine halls also plummeted, dropping from 1,937 in March 2015 to 1,721 by March 2016.