Councils call for powers to curb high street betting shops
The LGA said more needs to be done to protect local communities from the dangers of gambling
Council leaders have called for greater powers to confront the “blight” of betting shops.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said the licensing system ought to be reformed to allow authorities to prevent betting shops being “clustered” in town centres.
The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, said the public wanted to see fewer betting shops on the high streets, but that the authorities were limited by restrictive planning and licensing systems.
Tony Page, the LGA's licensing spokesman, said: "Councils aren't anti-bookies but need powers to tackle the damage that can be caused to high streets and town centres by the clustering of betting shops.
"Planning and licensing controls are supposed to ensure new shops or business will benefit an area but the current system is preventing councils from acting on community concerns. The result is many of our high streets becoming saturated with betting shops and councils left powerless to act to limit the number opening up in their area.
"Licensing laws must be updated to allow councils to consider the impact a new betting shop would have on their local economy and existing businesses. This would protect the power of local communities and democratically-elected councillors to shape their area."
Bookmakers say the number of betting shops has remained fairly constant for a decade and is half that seen in the 1970s.
The Local Government Assocation says the public wanted to see fewer betting shops on the high streets
But the LGA said the number of betting shops in parts of London had doubled in the past decade.
They are backed by the chief executive of William Hill, who admitted that betting shops can cause harm in local communities.
Ralph Topping was quoted as saying he was against betting shop clustering and could see the potential dangers it posed for local communities. Speaking to the Racing Post, he said he would recommend additional licensing powers for councils if there was a damaging effect on a local area.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the average household in the UK spent £66 last year on gambling.
In January, David Cameron admitted that there is a “problem” that needs to be addressed and offered to work with Labour to tackle the number to tackle the rising number of betting shops and fixed-odds betting machines, which allow people to stake up to £100 on a single bet, meaning they can lose £300 a minute.
According to the Gambling Commission, 51 per cent of the net takings in betting shops came from FOBTs in 2012-13. There are more than 33,000 such machines, making over £1.5bn every year.
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