As the betting addict who went on a rampage in Liverpool pointed out, bar staff don’t pour pints for people who have had too many. Why can’t the government rein in the bookies’ relentless growth?
It is not often that I feel sorry for a vandal, let alone a violent one armed with a hammer, but when Eric Baptista went on a rampage in Liverpool recently he had my sympathies. A problem gambler, he says he had begged to be barred from all of his local bookies, but that they refused to stop serving him. He was too good a customer, regularly losing £400 in a matter of minutes on the fixed-odds machines.
In May, Baptista took drastic action. If the wretched betting shops wouldn’t stop taking his business, he would put them out of business, he reasoned. He had lost yet another £100 in the William Hill on Aigburth Road when a circuit in his brain tripped. He went next door to buy two tins of black paint and set about smearing it over everything he could see. He didn’t stop there, visiting six other branches over a three-week period, causing £36,000 of damage by smashing up betting terminals, TV screens and gambling machines.