‘Betting shop crackdown does not go far enough’

STOPPING THEIR SPREAD ... fixed odds betting terminals.
STOPPING THEIR SPREAD ... fixed odds betting terminals.
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New Government measures to curb the spread of betting shops do not go far enough, a Blackpool campaigner has warned.

Proposed changes to the gambling industry will give councils more planning powers to control the opening of bookies on the high street.

Betting shops are currently in the same building usage category as banks and estate agents, meaning no planning permission is needed to open one. This will be changed so 
local authorities can scrutinise proposals.

The plans also include 
better protection for players on fixed-odds betting terminals, including making those who want to bet more than £50 in one play to pay over the counter.

Coun John Jones, who has previously highlighted fears about the spread of betting shops in deprived areas, welcomed some of the changes, but said more still needed to be done.

He said; “I think this is a step in the right direction and I am pleased councils are 
going to get more powers to limit the amount of bookies allowed to open.

“We need to look at the 
detail, but as a council I hope we will take on board what we are allowed to do.

“However, I think more could have been done. 
Only seven per cent of plays on these machines are stakes of between £50 and £100, so these measures won’t address the problem of people betting with smaller amounts of 
money, but going back time after time.”

On Monday, The Gazette revealed there are 42 betting shops in Blackpool, with 20 in the FY1 postcode zone which includes some of the town’s most deprived areas.

Dirk Vennix, chief executive of the Association of British Bookmakers, said the industry was already working to keep levels of problem gambling down and warned the changes would put jobs at risk.

Coun Gillian Campbell, Cabinet Member for Public Protection, said: “When these laws come in, it will allow the council to have more of a say about where premises can be turned to betting shops which is to be welcomed, but tackling the problem is a much wider issue than just the number of buildings.

“You only have to turn on the TV or open a magazine to see the incredible volume of advertising that is taking place to try to suck money from people’s pockets online and by phone, as well as in shops.

“This step is to be welcomed, but much more needs to be done to stop vulnerable people falling prey to the dangers of gambling addiction.”