Gambling

Written evidence submitted by Lucy Jaffé (GA 10)

From Lucy Jaffé in a personal capacity and as a resident of Harringay Ward in Haringey borough, London N4 1AB.

1. Summary

1.1. Request for the Committee to consider the impact of the Gambling Act on local and community life on Green Lanes, Haringey, London N4.

1.2. Description of negative impact of betting shop clustering in one area.

1.3. Suggestion for legislative change to Act.

2. Background

2.1 Since the introduction of the Act, there has been a large rise in the number of betting shops and adult gaming centres on a large number of local high streets, for example on Harringay Green Lanes, the number has gone from 5 to 10. There are many local groups like ours who are concerned about the decline of the high street and degradation of community life as a result of the clustering of betting shops. I am a local person who has been working with campaigners in Haringey to change this situation.

2.2 The Council Overview and Scrutiny Committee, chaired by Cllr David Winskill (LD) held an inquiry in November 2010, the report from which is anticipated this month. Evidence from traders, betting companies and local citizens was taken in order to review the situation. This situation is replicated across both urban and rural areas, such as Teresa Munt’s constituency, Wells, and also in Guildford.

3. Issues

3.1 Overall the community life in this area is adversely affected leading to people avoiding the high street. This means that the sense of community is disappearing and people are starting to be scared.The clustering of and rise in the number of these premises causes a degradation in local shopping streets through*:

· Increase in crime **

· Distortion of rents

· Local traders closing

· Violent crime

· Groups of men standing, spitting, smoking and ogling

· Increase in problem gambling and attendant asocial behaviour

*refer Committee to statistics in Ladder Community Safety Partnership submission.

** see picture below (not printed)

4. Problems

4.1 Previously the award of gambling licenses was in the preserve of magistrates, and a 'demand test' was required. The 2005 Act changed this, and made Local Authorities responsible for issuing licenses and removed the 'demand test' replacing it with an 'aim to permit' clause. This has effectively removed the ability of communities to make substantive objections to any license application and the cost of appeals has largely prohibited LAs from denying an application.

4.2 The inclusion of betting shops in the A2 planning use class is an anomaly, not only because A2 is generally considered for financial and professional services, but also because casinos and amusement centres always require planning permission when there is a material change of use.

4.3 Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) are the most highly addictive and remunerative gambling method and, although restricted to a maximum of four per premises, companies often open more than one shop or split premises to get around this.

4.4 In order to maximise expenditure and addiction, different companies open up in clusters so that gamblers can move easily from one shop to the next to play on a variety of FOBTs.

5. Rationale for request

5. 1I am very proud of being part of the local community in Green Lanes, N4 and enjoy the diversity and entrepreneurial spirit of the local population. There are many opportunities being opened up through the Localism and Big Society initiatives of this Government. However, The Gambling Act (2005) works against our aspirations to have control over our own street and locality.

6. Urgency

There has been a steady increase from 5 to 9 betting shops and adult gaming centres in the small stretch of road (between Allison and Endymion Roads, London N4) since the implementation of the Act in 2007. Rents are being distorted by the presence of betting shops. Surrounding shops are closing. What has been a thriving high street with many sole traders, attracting shoppers from all over North London and surviving the existence of a large Sainsburys nearby, is threatened with severe decline if action is not taken in the next year to reverse this trend. 2 banks on our stretch of high road have closed and been replaced with betting shops, reducing our community resources.

7. Action

I urge you to inquire into this situation urgently and consider:

7.1 an amendment to the Gambling Act (2005) (8. Premises Licences section 153

Principles to be applied) to change the ‘aim to permit’ to a ‘demand to prove’.

7.2 Remove betting shops from A2, and consider a new class use A6 to include betting shops, casinos and amusement centres, or make betting shops 'sui generis' as per clubs, nightclubs, casinos and amusement centres etc.

7.3 an amendment to the Gambling Act (2005) (8. Premises Licences section 172 Gaming Machines) to ban FOBTs outright (as the Republic of Ireland has done).

8. Picture taken on Green Lanes next to Warham Road, N4, on May 19th 2011. Example of criminal incident – betting shop with smashed window. (Not printed)

June 2011

Prepared 29th July 2011