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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Outlaw right for machine gambling in betting shops, says Haringey Council

The Government should remove the automatic right of betting shop owners to install up to four Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in each shop, says Haringey Council in a letter to Jeremy Hunt MP, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport.

This follows the council presenting evidence to the Select Committee Inquiry into Gambling, asking for betting shops to be subject to specific planning regulations due to the detrimental effect that clusters can have on high streets.

Cllr Nilgun Canver, Cabinet Member for the Environment, says:

FOBTs provide a very different form of gambling experience to that associated with sporting events. They are designed to be addictive and they generate a disproportionate percentage of the profit for average high street betting offices.

They are also particularly susceptible to criminal damage in part because they also can result in very large accumulative losses for the player. The player is encouraged to gamble for longer in the hope of chasing their losses.

The council is asking government to look at making it a statutory requirement for operators to apply for licences for FOBTs and for councils to be able to limit or refuse to allow FOBTs where there is a record of relevant crime or disorder linked to premises.

From Haringey Council Latest News

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IT's unclear whether this information is from a council press release, a newspaper article or represents comment. However, if the word "automatic" is correct, it is worrying.

The motive and thrust of the council over the wretched Gambling Act is well and good, but this letter to the Culture Secretary appears to be pussy footing with the problem.

Addressing the problem of betting shop proliferation via planning regulations is destined to fail as a solution, unless the all-powerful Gambling Act – promoted by the last government in 2005 – is amended.

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FoBTs) are far the most profitable element of betting shops. It is the Gambling Act that permits four FoBTs per premises. They are normally grouped together and I have never seen any grouping numbering other than four. Why would a betting shop want to deliberately reduce their profits by installing fewer?

Betting shop operators will always install the maximum number permitted by law. The notion that betting operators might be willing to accept a lessor number, without resort to immediate and well-funded legal action, strikes me as unrealistic.

There seems to be muddled thinking here: if these addictive machines are to be allowed at all (and I would question that) then the maximum number must be stated in absolute terms: either 1, 2, 3 or 4.

And not, four but not necessarily four.

Do we really want to generate more work for the legal profession in this way?

"From Haringey Council Latest News" = press release available from the council website. (written in small letters below main article)

I overlooked the provenance; thanks for posting the article Liz.

In suggesting that the automatic right to four FOBTs per premises might be removed, someone at the council appears to be unaware of the history of gambling operators asserting and defending in the Courts, every single right awarded them by the pernicious Gambling Act 2005.

It would save argument and unlimited wrangling in the Courts in the long run, if the machine maximum was simply reduced to three, two or one FOBT per premises, without any qualification on this number.

If the council doesn't want to put a figure on it, they could just say, reduce the number of permitted FOBTs.

There's a campaign against betting shops on High Streets full stop here: http://rowennadavis.com/?p=114 Cllr Rowenna Davis is working in Peckham area on this.

Obviously most of Green Lanes is betting shops but worth tracking local action? Better Archway Forum:  http://www.betterarchway.org.uk/ are also looking into the issue to try and block any more shops on Junction Road N19...

I had a look at Councllor Rowenna Davis' blog. I applaud her goal, but unfortunately what she says is evidence of yet more muddled thinking about what might be effective, rather than just token effort.

Local councils and planning legislation will not have any meaningful power to control the spread of betting shops, without amendment of the Gambling Act.

The gambling "industry" can be relied on to defend their interests in courts, as they have done for several years.

The wording of the Gambling Act is powerful and thanks to their lobbying of the last government, it is everything the betting industry could have wished for.

When this (unamended) Act is deployed in courts, it will, IMO, either trump anything that local councils come up with, or cause interminable argument, leaving the status quo unchanged.

Betting operators will be privately pleased at the hopeless efforts of those who would curtail them.

It would be nice for some politician to show leadership in this matter.

The real problem is that not just the current law is unjust, but the council's very interpretation of the law. More betting shops are springing up in Tottenham for example, yet few people are able to stop them, even if they have a legal case for preventing them opening in their neighbourhood in the first place. The council seem to be taking action long after the horse has bolted in my opinion, while failing to recognise the damage the decisions made by planning officers (and councillors) have done to the area.

Neville I have been known to criticise the Council on one or two occasions. I have even made a Complaint against a former Council Leader, that led to his being suspended for four months (the disgraced Cllr. Adje). However, on the question of betting shop proliferation, Haringey Council – or indeed, any council – is really not to blame.

Currently, there is no legal case to prevent new betting shops opening. Anyone in any doubt about this should study the Gambling Act and see how the Courts have interpreted it.

It is not the council's interpretation of the law that is the problem. It is not even Court's interpretation that can be criticised, for their hands are tied also, by the all-powerful, pernicious Gambling Act.

To its credit, Haringey Council tried to uphold and defend various earlier delinatory decisions by its Licensing Committee on new Gambling Premises Licence Applications.

This was done at no little cost and they were pitted against gambling operators with much deeper pockets. In each case where betting operators Appealed to the courts, they won, the council lost and costs were awarded against the council (us). There is no future in defending declinatory decisions in Court, as the law stands.

This is because the Gambling Act, promoted and passed by the last government in 2005, is overwhelmingly powerful. Licensing authorities are mandated by the Act to "aim to permit". Betting shops were to be treated like ordinary retail operations and subject only to market demand (i.e. if a betting operator believes there is demand).

Due to the Gambling Act, courts, councils and communities are all powerless to prevent new betting shops springing up at the will of operators. The proposals to counter this by planning legislation alone, are hopeless.



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