The Penny Finally Drops

The enforcing of the reduction of stakes that can be placed on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals from £100 to just £2, reminded me of my own childhood gambling addiction and the financial problems it caused my dad.
Admittedly, my “addiction” was seasonal and only manifested itself during our annual week’s summer holiday to rubbish British seaside resorts but it was very real.
It would start by trying to walk past an amusement arcade with it’s jaunty, enticing repetitive accordion tunes. In reality, a nightmarish audio assault on the ears of any parent but strangely attractive to kids with no musical taste, who haven’t discovered The Smiths.
Having cajoled my weary parents into the arcade, I, like many children, became mesmerised by the game imaginatively entitled “Penny Falls” because it probably wouldn’t have been so popular if it had been called by its more apt, proper name: “Waste 3 quid on a 10p plastic keyring!”
I’d dutifully go to the change machine and, armed with 2% of my dad’s holiday budget, squeal in ridiculous delight as a tonne of pennies tumbled into a small margarine tub.
Dad comforted himself by knowing that he couldn’t now legally hand over that amount of loose change to buy a pint, so he may as well spend it on the upkeep of a keyring dispensing machine.
It needed upkeeping because it would regularly get a hard-earned keyring caught on the side of its machinery, resulting in a cashier being sought to resolve the problem.
They had two important duties to perform.
Firstly, to open up the glass roof and always give the keyring to the upset child. Secondly, to push all other keyrings six inches back to audibly frustrate everyone around them.
My addiction is, thankfully, over but I find it bizarre that parents will trust small children to carry to school a 100 ridiculously expensive keyrings but wouldn’t trust them to carry around an actual front door key – in case anyone finds it and comes in and steals their keyring collection.


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