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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Does New Council Strategy Give Blessing to Betting Shop Growth in Harringay?

In a perplexing move Haringey Council appear to have given approval for a growth in the number of betting shops in Harringay.

Despite having stood four-square with the residents as we resisted the increasing number of betting shops on Harringay's Green Lanes over the past seven or eight years, and despite having new powers to control this growth, Haringey Council have now released a PR statement on their new strategy which apparently approves a growth in the number of  betting shops in Harringay. 

Tucked away in a press release about 'fast food-free zones' near schools, yesterday's statement from the Council also included the following:

Among the other ideas set out in the strategies, which could help shape new developments and planning decisions, are: 

  • Tackling clusters of betting shops by stopping new stores from opening if five per cent of shops in the area are already bookmakers

My immediate reaction was that 5% of an area as betting shops seems high. So I checked with the Harringay Traders Association and l learned that we have about 200 shops on Green Lanes in Harringay. That means that Haringey's new 'strategy idea' apparently approves ten betting shops on our stretch of Green Lanes. I assume that if the "area" was expanded to include the shops on Wightman Road and St Ann's Road the Council's target number for Harringay number would rise to 11 or possibly as high as 12.

This leaves me feeling very perplexed to say the least. Firstly I'm confused since I'd have thought anyone would do a double take and ask if 5% as betting shops of retail is a good target, either in the short or longer term. Secondly I'm confused because as the number of betting shops in Harringay grew to 7, then 8 and finally 9, Haringey Council spent a great deal of time and money supporting the residents as we tried to control the rise. With new powers at hand, that they should now appear to move to bless a further growth in betting shops makes no sense at all.

The devil with all this may well turn out to be in the detail, but whatever the case may turn out to be, the PR statement does raise two key questions for me. Firstly, is 5% of retail as betting shops the right target and how was it set? Secondly, since it could make a big difference how is an "area" defined.

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Good spot Hugh, but I'd be surprised if this heralded a further slackening of gambling policy that was already much slackened by the previous government.

It's possible to mistake incompetence as design. I think (and hope) it is merely poorly worded.

It all hinges on the meaning of "area", in the clause, "if five per cent of shops in the area are already bookmakers".

"Area" needs defining. Unfortunately, words are often used quite loosely.

However, there is little loose about the wording in the last Governments Gambling Act: the Licensing Authority is directed to "aim to permit [new betting shop premises licences] ".

This normally trumps all other considerations.

Liberal Democrat Party

I bet they just thought that 5% was about 5. I was a bit hopeful about some of the younger councillors elected recently but they're off out helping the Labour Party in far flung constituencies, becoming rubber stamp boys for the leadership or just too narcissistic for their own good.

The council's strategy may not be as bad for Haringey as it seems.  

I imagine the Council cannot unreasonably turn down applications for betting shops.   I am only guessing but I would think betting shops have to pay the Council some kind of license fee which is probably quite a bit.

If the Council approved less betting shops, the market would stay the same, meaning fewer shops doing very well indeed. More betting shops means more license fees for the Council and more jobs for residents.

So even though betting is not ideal, allowing it may be no bad thing.

Patrick, the fee charged by a local authority to process a licence application for a gambling premises is tiny (because local authorities can only charge for the cost of actual processing). The big bucks go on the annual fee to the a Gambling Commission which is a government body.

They need to legislate to reduce the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals from £100 to £2 so they are in line with other betting machines, and they'd soon disappear. That's all that makes that many shops in a small area profitable.

Better still, make like the Republic of Ireland, and only allow them in casinos.

I think David Lamy's campaign was to get more local control over the number of betting shops, which would have been good, but wouldn't have solved the underlying problem.

Fixed odds betting terminals are the reason there are this number of betting shops. They are massively profitable, but betting companies are limited to 4 machines per shop. This means that the only way to increase the number of FOBTs is to open more shops, and most of these new shops are only viable because of the FOBTs.

Reducing the maximum stakes would mean that many of these shops would no longer make a profit and would shut, so no extra planning legislation would be necessary.

The betting industry's central argument against reducing the maximum stake is that it would mean shop closures and job losses in the industry, in other words, job done. Jobs lost by betting shop closures would be offset by whatever new businesses replaced them.



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