Posted February 21, 2014 by John Baintree in News

Does the UK Have Too Many Bookies?

Does the UK Have Too Many Bookies
Does the UK Have Too Many Bookies

As long ago as 2011 news and social comment was beginning to report discontent with that of the nation’s gambling habit. Local authorities were saying that some places were becoming saturated with betting shops.  The truth is that numbers have been pretty static over recent years but the Local Government Association (LGA) reports that more deprived areas are seeing more and more planning applications for betting shops. This, according to the LGAs is because of the way planning law operates. Betting shops are classed as financial services for planning purposes so when a bank closes a High Street branch, a betting shop can open unchallenged.

Given that the major banks are closing many of their branches, and braches in pooper areas seem to be being targeted it does appear as though this may be part of the reason for a proliferation of betting shops in poorer areas.

The Local Government Association is asking for more powers to reject betting shops in areas where the industry is already represented. The Labour Party has also been making noises in a similar vein, even if somewhat off stage. Harriet Harman has also commented that betting shops are beginning to blight some areas.

What of the gambling industry’s response to concerns about over proliferation of betting shops in poorer areas? Predictably, their response does not appear to address the concerns on others. The Association of British Bookmakers commented that their members “offer a fun leisure product” and that they are responsible for bringing investment and footfall into many High Streets. They also maintain that since the 1960s betting shop numbers have fallen from 15,000 to around 8,500 for the last ten years.

On the High Street there seems to be a grim reality about what is happening. Despite high profile campaigns by the likes of Queen of Shops, Mary Portas, and Bill Grimsey, ex Iceland and Wickes, it seems as if despite the burgeoning recovery, the High Street still appears to be a bleak place. Mounting evidence shows that our High Streets are now home to charity shops and an increasing number of bookies. The London Borough of Newham, often lauded as the poorest borough in the UK has more than 80 betting shops according to one source with many people not playing the horses or the dogs. Labour Councillor Ian Corbett goes on to say that most visitors to High Street bookies are playing Fixed Odds Betting Terminals where it is possible to lose £100 in a few seconds. He says that these machines are beginning to be known as the “crack cocaine of the gambling world”

Perhaps there is a need to more state intervention in this situation if a new level of gambling is not to become endemic in Britain’s poorer communities and our High Streets are to be sent one step further on the road to no recovery.