Lib Dem motion – a move in the right direction

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The Campaign for Fairer Gambling fully supports a proposed Lib Dem conference motion (F37) High Street Gambling, which proposes putting betting shops back in their own use class. The Campaign agrees with the conference notes to the motion and with both aspects of the motion, that: (1) betting shops should be placed in a separate use class, and (2) councils should have greater powers to act against new gambling premises by taking into account existing coverage within their areas. The sooner these changes are in place the better, as the major bookmakers already plan on opening upto 300 new shops this year – which could mean a further 1,200 FOBTs – the betting shop roulette machines.

Local Authorities throughout the country are already trying to tackle the high street proliferation of betting shops. Newham tried arguing a case based on primary gambling activity but the Gambling Commission did not agree with their position. Dagenham has introduced an Article 4 Direction seeking to exclude more betting shops from designated areas in a borough that is already saturated and Southwark has proposed a local levy on betting shop profits under the Sustainable Communities Act. The diversity of actions taken by local authorities shows how inadequate the 2005 Gambling Act was in allocating sufficient powers to local authorities, who have a duty to ensure that the licensing objectives are complied with.

This motion is an important step for the Lib Dems in recognising a serious issue that resonates with the majority of the public, who deplore seeing high streets descending into a toxic economy of betting shops, payday loan shops and pawnbrokers all operating in close proximity.

The Campaign hopes that the next stage will be for the Lib Dems and the other political parties, to formally support a reduction in the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2, as this will be the best way of effectively dealing with the present issue of FOBT related problem gambling and FOBT proliferation.

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