A lot of effort by the borough of Islington means this is not the issue that is has been but the 2005 gambling act means that in principle there are are limited grounds for refusing a planning application for a betting shop, bingo hall or gambling arcade, even if there are plenty of them in the area already.
A count of customers at a gambling arcade in Archway found it didn’t even have many customers. Over 14 hours between 9am and 11pm there were just 10 of them.
However, those that did visit included some who were likely to be dedicated gamblers. One well-dressed woman woman stayed more than four hours, exiting approximately every hour to visit the adjacent cashpoint machine before returning to the arcade.
And there is reliable research that shows that an increase in gambling correlates with a rise in domestic violence.
Where an application is made, the 2005 Gambling Act only allows objections on the following grounds:
Preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime and disorder or being used to support crime;
Ensuring gambling is conducted in a fair and open way; and
Protecting children and other vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling.
This is not always sufficient for the application to be refused, but in planning, although decisions must take account of policy, material considerations can indicate a refusal.
Fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) have led to a marked increase in violence in gambling premises (see the findings of BBC’s Panorama at www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20182750). The incidence is almost certainly under reported because operator policy for staff is generally not to contact police abut this.
The reduced footfall actively damages the local economy.
The blanked windows of most betting premises can be good cover for activities like drug dealing, as has happened in Archway.
The money lost in gambling operations is taken out of the local economy, reducing spend for other local businesses - an important issue in times of recession.
Two key problems are that:
1. You can’t argue that there enough such properties already (saturation) even though most gambling is transferring on-line.
2. There isn’t a separate planning use class for gambling properties, so they are free to open wherever there has been a bank, building society, estate agents or similar. They should be in a separate ‘sui generis’ use class of their own, like mini cab offices.
MPs have become aware that the highly profitable fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) pose a particular problem and changes are likely. In August 2018 William Hill reported that if the proposed curbs were introduced they would close up to 900 shops, relying on their online business, so a reduction in High Street gambling seems likely.