Is it time to crackdown on the rise of betting shops on our High Streets?

PUBLISHED: 12:55 30 April 2014 | UPDATED: 13:50 30 April 2014

William Hill betting shop

William Hill betting shop

Greater powers are to be given to local councils to decide whether to allow new high street betting shops to open under a review of gambling measures.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has today announced a review of gambling policy, which gives details of further measures to improve protection for people who play gambling machines.

The measures allow councils to refuse a planning application if they are worried about the number of shops.

Under the current system, planning applications are not always needed for new betting shops to open.

Councils have warned that “ineffective” licensing and planning laws leave them powerless to act on community concerns and stop the spread of betting shops in already saturated areas or areas of high deprivation.

In the written statement, Helen Grant MP, minister for sport, tourism and equalities, said: “A smaller planning use class containing betting shops will mean that in future where it is proposed to convert a bank, building society or estate agents into a betting shop, it would require a planning application. In addition, the Government will remove the ability for other premises such as restaurants and pubs to change use without being obliged to seek planning permission.”

She also announced measures to protect players, requring customers accessing stakes over £50 to use account-based play or load cash over the counter.

A poll earlier this month found most voters think betting machines fuel gambling addictions and should be hit by tougher restrictions.

Around two-thirds of adults believe there are too many bookmakers on Britain’s high streets and half think they are deliberately placed in poorer areas, the ComRes study for The Sunday People found.

Some 63% said the fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) that are now commonplace inside encourage problem gambling and 56% want the maximum stake limit cut from £100 to £20, it added.

Punters can bet £300 a minute - £18,000 a hour - on the high speed machines and they are mainly clustered in the most deprived parts of the country.

The Association of British Bookmakers said there had been “no proliferation” in the overall number of bookmakers in recent years.

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