David Cameron vows to curb 'problem' of betting shops on high streets

The number of high-stakes machines is limited to four in each betting shop, but Labour claims bookmakers have got round the rule by opening more branches – often in deprived areas

Councils could be handed new powers to curb the growth of betting shops on their high streets and limit the number of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) inside them.

David Cameron admitted that there is a “problem” that needs to be addressed and offered to work with Labour to secure a cross-party consensus on how to tackle it.

Although the gambling industry was liberalised by the previous Labour government, Ed Miliband has called recently for action to tackle the rising number of betting shops and machines allowing people to stake up to £100 on a single bet, which means they can lose £300 a minute. Other terminals have a £2 limit.

The number of high-stakes machines is limited to four in each shop, but Labour claims bookmakers have got round the rule by opening more branches – creating “mini-casinos”, often in deprived areas.

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.

Conservative politicians including Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, and Sir Merrick Cockell, chairman of the Local Government Association, have joined the call for limits on the number of betting shops.

Labour is proposing a change in planning rules so that bookmakers need to apply for planning permission to open new premises that were not previously a betting shop. At present they do not need consent if they take over premises previously used by a bank, building society, employment agency or other “financial and professional” service.

Labour also wants new rules for FOBTs to increase the time between plays from 20 to 40 seconds and bring in “pop-ups” reminding players how long they have played and how much they have staked and lost.

The Government looks set to adopt some of these ideas when it completes a review of the problem this spring. Helen Grant, the Culture Minister, told MPs that the gambling industry will introduce some measures at the end of March to protect people who play the high-stakes machines. She said she had challenged the UK’s five largest bookmakers to act and that the Government would not delay taking the necessary action.

Earlier when Mr Miliband raised the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Cameron told him: “This is a problem, it does need looking at, we have a review under way, frankly we are clearing up a situation that was put in place under the last government, but I think if we work together we can probably sort it out.”

Urging councils to make full use of the existing powers, Mr Cameron said: “I’m not arguing that is job done, there may well be more to do, but we have a review under way.”

He insisted the number of high-stakes machines had fallen. Figures show it dropped from 33,663 in 2010 to 33,209 last year.

Mr Miliband argued that local authorities needed more powers. He said: “One in three calls to the gambling helpline is about these machines and they are clustered in deprived areas. For example, there are 348 in one of the most deprived areas of the country, Newham… Local communities believe they already have the evidence – shouldn’t they be given the power to decide whether they want these machines or whether they don’t want these machines?”

But Labour was accused of hypocrisy as it staged a Commons debate on the issue last night. John Leech, the Liberal Democrats’ spokesman on culture, said: “I will take no lectures from Labour on this issue, whose cultural contribution to our high streets were lap dancing bars, 24-hour drinking and the explosion of betting terminals.”

He added: “Labour has done a complete U-turn on a policy it implemented in government and is trying to score cheap political points.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee