Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales is fighting to stop the betting shop industry blighting our streets
PUBLISHED: 13:23 15 January 2014 | UPDATED: 13:51 15 January 2014
Newham Council has long campaigned for powers to rid our high streets of the increased number of betting shops and the highly addictive gaming machines known as fixed odds betting terminals.
We know that the betting shop industry is four times more likely to target less affluent areas with these machines. In Newham alone, we have 87 betting shops with 348 of these terminals.
These machines allow people to gamble up to £100 every 20 seconds, meaning they can lose their wages in minutes. There is evidence that they are magnets for anti-social behaviour, street crime, theft, shoplifting and violence.
Such anti-social behaviour is preventing us from attracting much-needed investment from other businesses. If betting shops are not reined in, they will ruin our high streets.
We have urged the government to rethink its recommendations on gambling and to give councils local powers to prevent betting shops from taking over. We have also asked for a reduction in the maximum number of fixed odds betting terminals in any one shop and for a reduction in the maximum bet that can be placed via these machines from £100 to £2.
Bookies should also have to prove there is a demand for a traditional betting shop in the area. We have rejected a licensing application from Paddy Power for a shop in Upton Park because its “primary activity” would be from fixed odds betting terminals, not traditional betting-shop business.
We have also objected to Betfred increasing the late-night opening hours of four of its shops in Newham, leading it to drop its application.
We’re not against responsible betting and gambling. Our issue is with the bookmakers that blight our high streets and prey on the vulnerable.
It‘s reassuring to hear that Ed Miliband understands the concerns of boroughs like ours and has vowed to pass a law giving councils the power to ban fixed odds betting terminals.
Powers like these will enable us to take on the betting-shop industry and continue creating diverse and thriving high streets for our residents.