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Newham Council leads 93 councils in call to curb casino-style gambling on the high street

28 November 2014 in Community safety and Mayor
Newham Council’s Sustainable Communities Act proposal has the largest cross-party local authority support ever.
Mayor outside a betting shop
Today Newham Council is leading 93 councils from up and down the country in calling on the government to bring an end to casino-style gambling on the nation’s high streets.

The council is lodging a Sustainable Communities Act proposal (Word) with the Department for Communities and Local Government today demanding that the government reduces the maximum stakes on betting shop B2 gaming machines, also known as fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), from £100 a spin to £2.

Newham Council, and a growing number of authorities have seen a rise in the number of bookies, mainly big name chains, clustering on high streets, taking advantage of lax planning and licensing regulations.

In Newham alone there are currently 86 betting shop premises licenses an increase of almost 30 per cent since 2007 (PDF) - High Street North in East Ham has 17 betting shops alone.

Today the Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales is demanding that action is taken to reverse the decline of high streets into the hands of greedy bookmakers.

“We are fighting hard to ensure that our high streets are not dominated by betting shops who are solely concerned with making a quick buck on a computer roulette-wheel.  We have tried to curb the rise in the number of betting shops, but our battle with the betting shops has been thwarted by the lack of tough regulations and the toothless court system.

“We are now taking the next step. Some 93 councils, of all political parties, have signed up to our Sustainable Communities Act proposal, the largest number ever, to urge government to bring an end to casino-style gambling on the high street and prevent betting shops from clustering, especially in deprived areas.”
B2 FOBTs can see up to £100 bet per 20 second spin. One machine alone could see £18,000 gambled in an hour, and with up to four machines in a store, £72,000 could be spent during peak hours, far exceeding the level of other gaming machines found in bingo halls and arcades.

Earlier this month an Ipsos Mori poll found that 70 per cent of respondents believed that the maximum bet of £100 on FOBTS is too much. And a YouGov survey from April 2014 saw 61 per cent of respondents supporting a reduction on the maximum stake to £2 per spin, similar to the level of stakes available on other gaming machines.

Sir Robin continued: “We are standing up for our residents as we pledged to, in a bid to rid our high streets of these clusters of betting shops. We believe that this simple step, which can be taken by government as part of their review of stakes, could be the solution to the problem of clustering.”

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling supports this move. A spokesperson said: "It would be irresponsible of the Government to ignore so many local authorities, all of which are calling for a stake reduction on FOBTs. Councils are on the front line in having to deal with the consequences of high stake, high speed casino gambling on the high street. If the Government really supports localism, it will respond to Newham Council's submission by reducing the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2 a spin."

Mike Simmons, 53, an independent bookmaker from West Midlands, who grew up in Newham, also backs the council’s stance. He said: “I’ve been hooked on these machines myself. When people play the roulette game a change of mood comes over them, it’s like money doesn’t exist and they are just seeing numbers on the screen.

“One guy I knew killed himself because of the money he had lost on the machine and yet a week later his brother was playing on them – it shows the pull they have.”

And chairman of the Newham Chamber of Commerce Llyod Johnson said he fully supported the council’s call. He said: “Betting shops are strangling our high streets. It is not a pleasant sight for shoppers to be greeted by rows of bookies instead of independent and high street retailers in our town centres. By cutting the level of stakes on these machines we hope that will bring an end to the proliferation of bookmakers and safeguard our shopping districts for the future.”

The Sustainable Communities Act became law in 2007, establishing a process where councils can urge central government to assist in “promoting the sustainability of local communities”. The government now has a duty to reach a decision on Newham Council’s submission within a year.

London supporters (31): Barking; Barnet; Bexley; Brent; Bromley; Camden; Croydon; Ealing; Enfield; Greenwich; Hackney; Hammersmith and Fulham; Haringey; Harrow; Havering; Hillingdon; Hounslow; Islington; Kensington and Chelsea; Kingston; Lambeth; Lewisham; Merton; Newham; Redbridge; Richmond; Southwark; Sutton; Tower Hamlets; Waltham Forest; Wandsworth.

National supporters (62): Amber Valley; Ashford; Barnsley; Birmingham; Blackpool; Bolton; Bournemouth; Bradford; Brighton and Hove; Bristol; Burnley; Canterbury; Cheshire East; Cheshire West and Chester; Colchester; Coventry; Crawley; Derby City Council; Dudley; Durham; East Staffordshire; Exeter City Council; Fareham; Gravesham; Herefordshire; Hyndburn; Ipswich; Knowsley; Lancaster; Leeds; Leicester City Council; Liverpool; Luton; Manchester; Middlesbrough; Newcastle; Newcastle-under-Lyme; North Tyneside; Northumberland; Norwich; Nottingham City Council; Oadby and Wigston; Oldham; Peterborough; Plymouth City Council; Preston; Reading; Rochdale; Rossendale; Sandwell; Sefton; Selby; Southampton; Stockton on Tees; Stoke-on-Trent; Sunderland; Swansea; Torbay; Wakefield; Warrington; Windsor and Maidenhead; Wolverhampton.