FIGURES showing the amount of money South Tynesiders spent on fixed odds betting terminals staggered both clergymen and councillors.
The Reverend Roy Merrin, a founder member and chairman of the former Jarrow Credit Union more than 20 years ago, said: “I’m surprised and alarmed at the statistics quoted.
“The figures do appear very high, given the levels of deprivation in South Tyneside.
“But I do feel that these betting terminals present a considerable problem to people who become addicted to them.”
Mr Merrin, of Grange Road Baptist Church, Jarrow, added: “People who do become addicted to gambling can create great financial hardship for themselves and their families.”
Mr Merrin urged local families facing financial hardship to save with The Bridges credit union, which incorporates the former Jarrow and South Shields credit unions.
Coun John McCabe, a Labour representative for the Hebburn South ward and deputy chairman of the town’s community area forum, said: “I’m astounded by these figures for South Tyneside.
“But gambling addiction is similar to being hooked on drugs or drink, and it’s often very difficult for people to accept they have a problem.
“However, I can think of two people whose gambling problems cost them their marriages.
“I certainly think it’s time we took a hard look at controlling the way gambling is advertised, and I may raise these statistics with the Labour Group on South Tyneside Council.”