GAMBLERS have questioned a new measure allowing addicts to block themselves from online betting.

The self-referral tool, called Gamstop, will let punters forfeit access to all UK betting websites.

Companies that fail to adopt the technology risk losing their licences, and almost all have signed up.

But with gamblers now losing almost £14.5 billion a year to betting companies – twice as much as they were a decade ago – betters in Brighton are doubtful about whether Gamstop can deal with the problem.

On Monday night, one self-confessed gambling addict outside a William Hill betting shop in St James’s Street had lost £60 in 45 minutes on the fruit machines.

He did not wish to be named, but said: “It’s like crack cocaine. I know I’m never going to win. I swear these machines are rigged against me. But you’re just trying to recapture that first thrill. I won £40,000 once. Then I lost my house, my family, my life.

“There’s nothing I can do about it.

“I gamble on the web, at the bookies, on the machines. Even with an online blocker, I’ll still be down here, losing money.

“This street is so bad for it. I walk past all these betting shops and get drawn in to every one. There was a bloke next to me just pushing a wad of twenties into the machine. There’s nothing you can do.”

Since the Government relaxed restrictions on gambling in 2007, the industry has boomed. And in the past five years, the number of British gamblers complaining about betting firms has risen by almost 5,000 per cent.

Monitoring several screens in a bookies in St James’s street, professional gambler Antony Lawrence was placing a £35 accumulator bet on the football.

He blamed small-stake online betting for the rise in gambling addiction.

He said: “When the unique stakes are so tiny, it entices people. You may be putting just a penny on each card in a game of bingo – but by the end of the week, you’ll have lost loads of money.

“A lot of people who can’t get out easily are caught up in online betting – older people and those with disabilities. But the obvious issue with self-referral is that you’ve got to acknowledge you’ve got a problem first.”

A spokeswoman for the regulator which approved the new measure, the Gambling Commission, said: “Self-exclusion is widely accepted as an important harm minimisation tool for consumers who have recognised that they have a problem with their gambling and wish to stop for at least six months.

“Self-exclusion, as well as tools such as gambling software blocking and payment card blocking, should be seen as an aid to support an individual’s decision to stop gambling for a period of time, and will be most effective when used in combination.

“But it should be recognised that none of these tools will be infallible and if someone is determined to gamble they will find a way to do so.

“It is very important that, in addition to using tools such as this, people receive treatment or support to build long-term strategies to avoid, or manage their, gambling.”