Newham Council has renewed its assault on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, the money-hungry slot machines housed in betting shops.
Unlike the one-armed bandits of old, FOBT can take stakes up to £100 a go with people losing huge sums over the course of an afternoon. They have been called the “crack cocaine” of gambling, such is the speed of the action with the possibility of a £500 win per bet.
Newham rallied support for a ceiling of £2 for stakes and 93 councils joined the action to lobby Government for a change in November 2014. In July this year, Government rejected the idea.
Minister for Local Government Marcus Jones MP said at the time: “It is an uncomfortable reality that every one of the betting shops that collectively have given rise to the concern at the heart of the submission relies on a premises licence granted by the local authority itself.”
Fixed odds betting terminals
He said that councils had “considerable scope” to attach conditions to the licence but the presumption should be on allowing betting shops to go ahead.
Between October 2011 and December 2014 Newham Council’s licensing sub-committee rejected six licensing applications which were overturned in the magistrates court appeal process. The council has reported a 44% rise in betting shops since 2007 with 83 in total.
Now the council is launching a second campaign, supported by the Local Government Association (LGA), under the Sustainable Communities Act, which allows for councils to push for legislation to safeguard their boroughs.
Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales said: “These fast-paced, electronic roulette wheels have sucked the life blood out of local economies. By reducing the profits made on these machines bookmakers will be forced to think again about their shop numbers.
“We want our local high streets to thrive. In Newham, our efforts to prevent bookies opening have been continually thwarted by lax planning rules and a not fit for purpose legal system. The government must now listen.”
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The Government has said that it has already introduced new layers of protection while the Association of British Bookmakers said it would work with the LGA.
The spokesman said: “The government made a decision on this issue just six months ago and highlighted that local authorities have sufficient powers, via the licensing process, to manage the presence of betting shops on the high street.”
The LGA will now spend the next six months negotiating with the government to reduce the stakes on FOBTs.