Under 18 gambling sting sparks rap

Betsid betting shop in Abingdon Street

Betsid betting shop in Abingdon Street

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A betting operator has been warned about its future conduct after it allowed underage gambling on its premises.

Betsid allowed under-18s to use fixed odds betting machines (FOBTs) at its shops on Abingdon Street and Dickson Road in Blackpool.

The bookies, which is owned by Wrea Green-based businessman Simon Rigby, had its gambling licence reviewed by Blackpool Council after failing a test purchasing operation.

Volunteers aged 14 and 16 were sent into both shops in October as part of regular council checks to ensure betting shops in the town are complying with the law, and were able to use the machines unchallenged.

Following a town hall hearing , councillors decided to take no action against Betsid after hearing the operator had taken measures to prevent it happening again.

But the company was warned a harder line would be taken if it failed a further test purchase in future.

Speaking after the hearing, Coun Gary Coleman who chaired the panel, said: “The council takes very seriously its responsibility of protecting young people from gambling.

“We know if they start gambling very young it can lead to all sorts of issues and getting in with the wrong people.

“However since the incidents in October, Betsid has been working closely with our licensing team and have taken steps to address the situation.

“They have made various changes to the layout of the shops because before people could just come off the street and get straight onto the machine.

“Since then, they have put a barrier in place so people have to go past the counter.

“However they were advised that should Betsid appear before us in future, it would be very difficult not to take a harder line.”

Evidence submitted to the hearing by Blackpool Council licensing officer Amanda Quirke said: “Studies have shown correlation between early exposure to gambling increasing the risk of developing serious gambling problems in later life.

“Young people can also become addicted to gambling which has a detrimental impact.” Paul Kirkby, operations manager at Betsid Ltd, said: “With the guidance of Blackpool Council licensing and the Gambling Commission, Betsid have made significant changes to both shop layouts to provide a more socially responsible layout in respect to underage gambling.”

Betting shops are allowed up to four FOBTs in each premises. They offer simple touch-screen play, with little prior gambling knowledge needed.

Users insert notes or coins, pick a game and are ready to go.