The Labour Party has called for measures to tackle the clustering of betting shops in deprived areas.
Amongst the key concerns is the fact that fixed odds betting terminals are taking a disproportionate amount of money in areas of high unemployment. These machines allow customers to stake as much as £100 every 20 seconds. Residents in Leeds Central alone spend over £130k on these machines last year.
There are limits to how many machines are allowed in shops. But it has been suggested that bookmakers have simply opened more branches to get around the restrictions.
The new proposals would have given local councils more power – for example, to lower the limit of fixed odds betting terminals per betting shop further than the current limit of four. They would also have introduced stricter controls on the locations of betting shops, to prevent clustering in one area.
Other measures proposed included taking steps to lessen the addictiveness of fixed odds betting machines and cutting the stakes from £100 to £2.
The proposals were a response to the growing concerns within communities about the detrimental effect these establishments are having on the diversity and character of UK high streets.
However, so far the government have rejected these suggestions on the grounds that they are waiting for a report on the machines to be published before taking action. The initial results are expected in spring, but the full report will not be available until autumn.
Leader of Leeds Council, Cllr Keith Wakefield said:
“We need to explore stricter regulation on gambling which can be a blight on people’s lives and on some of the poorest communities.
“Under current legislation, a betting shop can open in any premises that used to be a bank, building society, estate agent, employment agency or similar without needing planning permission. Where this has fuelled the spread of betting shops on the high street, local authorities are powerless to intervene on planning grounds.
“The welfare of local people and maintaining diversity of our high streets should be at the heart of any decisions taken regarding the location of gambling establishments.”
Alex Sobel agrees ‘With people’s living standards cut more and more deeply, the threat of these establishments and their clustering in our communities is a problem we need to tackle NOW not later.’
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