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Councils call for new powers to tackle gambling

The maximum stakes on Fixed Odds Betting Machines (FOBMs) should be reduced and councils should have more powers to tackle gambling, the LGA has stated.

Newham Council have proposed an amendment to the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 which would lower the maximum £100 FOBM stake for a 20 second bet in line with the maximum stake allowed for other gaming machines on the high street (£2) and casinos (£5). The amendment was initially rejected by the government but is now being reconsidered after an appeal.

Councils have warned about the impact of FOBM machines, saying they allow gamblers to lose up to £18,000 an hour and that areas with high concentrations of betting shops tend to have correspondingly high rates of unemployment, crime and poverty.

The LGA also say that cumulative impact tests should be introduced to enable councils to reject applications for new betting shops where there are already existing clusters of shops and licensing laws to be updated to allow councils to take problems associated with excessive gambling.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA's safer and stronger communities board, said: “Councils up and down the country are worried about the number of high stakes FOBMs and betting shops on our high streets, and are frustrated by the lack of powers they have to curb them.

“The higher stakes permitted on FOBMs is significantly out of line with other high street gambling machines and the harm and anti-social behaviour they can cause has become an issue of growing national concern.”

There was a 13% increase in betting shops in London in 2010-12, and there are more than twice as many betting shops in the poorest 55 wards in London compared to the most affluent 115, which are equivalent in terms of population.

Newham had a 29% increase in licensed betting shops between 2007 and 2013 and now has 84. One street in East Ham has 12, including four of the same chain and two of another, and police officers were called to an incident of crime or anti-social behaviour in a betting shop an average of once a day in 2012-14.

Among MPs, 72% want tougher regulations of FOBMs, 81% believe they have a negative effect on vulnerable groups, 66% say they have a negative effect on local communities and 62% say they have a negative effect on UK high streets.

(Image c. Daniel Hambury from PA Archive/ Press Association Images)


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