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East Ham MP Stephen Timms wants restrictions putting on betting shops

PUBLISHED: 13:26 08 January 2014 | UPDATED: 13:26 08 January 2014

Archant

Before Christmas, Ed Miliband announced a policy to please many of us in Newham. He said a Labour government would allow councils to ban Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in bookmakers. He also committed to a new planning ‘use class’ for betting shops, so councils can refuse permission for new ones.

Last year, many Newham residents told me how fed up they are about the vast increase in the number of betting shops. There are now 88 in our borough alone, and many more across East London. The dramatic growth of the last few years is down to FOBTs – electronic roulette machines.

Players can bet up to £300 a minute. More and more families have been ruined by people becoming addicted to them. However, the government has refused to act.

There are more than 350 FOBTs in Newham. The law sets a limit of four per shop. So betting chains like Paddy Power just open multiple shops.

That’s what they have done in East Ham High Street. Betting shops – paying landlords handsomely – squeeze out decent shops and attract anti-social behaviour.

Councils can do little to stop bookmakers opening new shops.

If they refuse planning permission, the betting chains appeal. Government planning inspectors always find in their favour. Labour’s plan would make refusals stick.

Labour would also allow councils to remove FOBTs from betting shops, or limit their number. And Councils could reduce the harm by increasing the time between plays, requiring pop-ups to break up continuous cycles of gambling.

East Ham High Street has survived recessions and the opening of Westfield Stratford. It will not survive if every shop becoming vacant is taken over by a bookmaker.

Councils must be able to protect their high streets for the benefit of everyone.

The changes Ed Miliband has proposed cannot come too soon.

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