Racing: No hiding place for shop punters

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The Independent Online
THERE was bad news yesterday for the many punters who prefer not to be observed going about the furtive business of betting, writes John Cobb. The Home Secretary, Michael Howard, yesterday announced that legislation is to be enacted that will remove many of the restrictions governing betting shops, including those necessitating that shop windows are obscured.

The changes mean that it will no longer be possible to use betting shops as a hiding place from family, nosy neighbours, employers, etc. The legislation also brings a change in attitude to betting, which was regarded as a shameful vice which needed to be hidden from the eyes of decent people when betting shops were legalised in 1961.

Now, passers-by will not only be able to witness what had previously been the private grief of punters, they will be encouraged to step inside and unburden their pockets. Bookies will be able to lure people in by turning the screens displaying sporting action and odds towards the street.

Another change means that there will no longer be a restriction on the size of television screens used in betting shops. This rule has been bypassed in any case with bookies creating one large image by building a bank of screens.

The familiar feeling of emerging from a betting shop with no more than peanuts will become a thing of the past. In addition to salted nuts, crisps and biscuits, shops will now also be allowed to sell pre-packaged sandwiches and snacks.

Malcolm Palmer, spokesman for Coral, one of the largest firms, said: 'The new legislation will help us to compete more favourably with the national lottery but we are disappointed that we will still not be allowed to provide amusement-with-prize machines and will not be permitted to sell lottery tickets.

The evening opening of betting shops three years ago has been responsible for a seven per cent increase in betting turnover and a further rise is expected after the changes announced yesterday are put into effect, probably early in 1995.