MPs’ solution to betting shop clusters is ‘illogical’, say councils
By Vivienne Russell | 24 July 2012
Town halls have dismissed MPs’ recommendations on gambling reform as ‘illogical’.
issued today by the Commons culture, media and sport select committee recommended action to reduce the concentrations of betting shops that have developed in some communities. It says one of the reasons for the clusters is that each ‘bookie’ is allowed to house only four of the popular B2 gaming machines. The MPs suggest that councils should be able to increase this limit if they think it will solve the problem.
But the idea got short shrift from Clyde Loakes, vice chair of the Local Government Association’s environment and housing board. ‘While it is an important step that the CMS committee has recognised that the clustering of betting shops is a concern for local people, their response to the problem is completely illogical. It’s clearly not sensible to increase the number of slot machines in betting shops to tackle the problem of too many slot machines,’ he said.
‘Councils and local residents have consistently argued for greater powers to address clustering, but this has been overlooked. Clusters of any type of premises, from bookies, to fast food takeaways to strip clubs, can be harmful to growth as it drives people away from their local high streets.’ Local issues were best served through local solutions, Loakes added.
Overall, the committee argued for more powers for local authorities, such as deciding whether or not to allow casinos to open.
Committee chair John Whittingdale said there was ‘considerable scope’ to devolve decision-making to a more local level.
He added: ‘The “reluctantly permissive” tone of gambling legislation over the past 50 years now looks outdated. It is also inadequate to cope with the realities of the global market in online gambling, and even seems ill-equipped to cope with the realities on our high streets.
‘Our general approach in this report has therefore been to support liberalisation of rules and delegation of decisions to those closest to the communities that will be affected.’