Councils will get power to block new betting shops

Political Editor

New restrictions on betting shops will be introduced this week, ministers pledged last night, amid fears of a growing use of high-stakes machines fuelling gambling addiction.

Local authorities will be given greater control over planning applications by betting firms on high streets, with powers to reject new shops if there are already clusters of gambling outlets in an area.

Yet there remain concerns about the proliferation of the highly-addictive fixed odds betting terminals which allow stakes of up to £100 that can be lost at a stroke. Despite an increase in tax on the machines from 5 per cent to 25 per cent by George Osborne in his Budget last month, there are calls for greater restrictions on the high-stakes machines.

Last night the Department for Culture Media and Sport declined to say whether there would be fresh moves against fixed odds machines when a review of gambling measures is published on Wednesday. Opponents want to see maximum stakes slashed from £100 to £2, but it is expected the Government will stop short of this and instead propose cooling off periods for gamblers who use the machines.

Because the number of fixed-odds terminals per shop is limited to four, firms have opened more outlets. Current rules do not require firms to submit planning applications, allowing bookmakers to move into premises left empty by another business. They are classed in the same way as estate agents, banks and building societies.

Under the government’s plans, local authorities will be able to limit the number of shops through planning rules if they are concerned about clusters. Local communities will be given a “proper voice” on gambling on the high street, with their views taken into account during the planning application process. In February research from Deloitte found that 52 per cent of people wanted to see fewer betting shops on their high streets.

A Government source said: “We know that lots of people are worried about the numbers of betting shops that have sprung up on their high streets in recent years.

“It is only right to give local communities the power to object to a new betting shop if they feel they already have too many on their doorstep, the balance has to be right.”

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