‘We can’t limit number of bookies’

Sue Harrison, director of children's services

Sue Harrison, director of children's services

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TOWN hall bosses say their hands are tied when it comes to restricting the number of bookies in Blackpool.

Councillors shared their fears over the number of betting shops in poor areas of the resort during a meeting of the council’s executive committee.

The cabinet discussed policies and principles of enforcing the Gambling Act 2005.

But councillors hoping to address problems caused by gambling in Blackpool said they do not have the power to protect vulnerable residents and communities.

While they would like to be able to restrict numbers of betting shops opening they cannot go above and beyond the law.

There are 41 betting offices in Blackpool, along with four casinos, six bingo halls, 22 adult gaming centres and 14 family entertainment centres which have gaming areas for adults.

Since Blackpool lost its bid for a supercasino in 2006, councillors said the resort had suffered as a result of changes to gambling laws.

Eddie Collett, cabinet member for crime and community safety, added: “This council was always opposed to the liberalisation of gambling. We had our casino bid cruelly snatched away, leaving us with the liberal approach but without the economic regeneration that could have come with it.”

Further issues were raised over what responsibility betting shops have to run awareness training and how much the council can do to protect vulnerable residents.

Dirk Vennix, chief executive of The Association of British Bookmakers, wrote to The Gazette last week saying its members operate as highly regulated and responsible businesses

He said: “We do take our responsibilities towards protecting the young and vulnerable seriously, as was illustrated by the local council’s test purchasing exercise in the summer in Blackpool which showed 100 per cent compliance with age verification.”

But Sue Harrison, director of children’s services, said ultimately more needed to be done. She said: “It’s a shame we can’t influence more, there’s massive damage being done with online gambling 24/7.”

Members agreed to continue to look at how other council’s address the issue.

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