The Local Government Association of England and Wales says planning and licensing laws need to be changed to prevent betting shops from being “clustered” in commercial areas.
In adding its voice to a growing chorus of concern by municipal governments over the proliferation of the venues across Britain, LGA spokesman Tony Page said, “Councils aren’t anti-bookies but need powers to tackle the damage that can be caused to high streets and town centers.”
The LGA, which represents 370 councils, says local authorities have been “left powerless” to limit the number of shops opening in a given area.
The LGA said the number of betting shops in some parts of London has doubled in the past decade, largely in response to the popularity of electronic table games, which now generate the lion’s share of bookmakers’ revenues but are limited by law to four per shop. The controversial machines, known as fixed odds betting terminals, are considered by opponents to be a major cause of problem and addictive gambling, and calls for restrictions have reached all the way to Parliament.
The Association of British Bookmakers says the number of shops has been relatively constant at 8,700 over the last decade and there has been “no proliferation.” But William Hill Chief Executive Ralph Topping recently conceded that a problem could exist that local councils should have greater powers to address. He said he is “against betting shop clustering on social grounds,” adding that while the venues “have always been part of the community,” political action is necessary “when the situation starts to alienate communities.”