Gambling

Written evidence submitted by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee at
Haringey Council (GA 26)

1. Summary

1.1 The Overview & Scrutiny Committee of Haringey Council (Haringey OSC) would like to make the following submission to the Select Committee investigation in to the impact of the Gambling Act 2005 (GA05).

1.2 Informed by the work of the scrutiny review panel, it was concluded that the GA05 has contributed to clustering of betting shops in local communities. The panel concluded that:

§ The GA05 limited the ability of the Licensing Authority to influence the number or distribution of betting shops in the community, which has resulted in some instances, of local clusters of up to 8 shops

§ Clustering of betting shops can have a detrimental impact on local communities, particularly in relation to the retail choice available and subsequent appeal of local shopping centres to local residents

§ Clustering of betting shops was unlikely to contribute to an increase in problem gambling

§ Clustering of betting shops had not contributed to an increase in crime

§ Fixed Odds Betting Terminals may also be contributory factor in to the clustering of betting shops

§ The GA05 offers no remedy to prevent betting shop clustering

§ There is little provision within the GA05 for local concerns to be considered in the gambling licensing process, and the weight of evidence required to influence licensing decisions is beyond the resources of local stakeholders.

2. The work of Overview & Scrutiny in Haringey

2.1 The Overview & Scrutiny Committee conducted a review in to the clustering of betting shops. This review sought to assess the impact that the clustering of betting shops had upon local communities and to identify possible remedies. All key stakeholders were included within this review, and their evidence was considered alongside submissions from local residents and community groups.

2.2 A report of the conclusions and recommendations of the investigating panel has been produced and approved by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee. [1] The following highlights some of the key conclusions of this report which are of relevance to the Committee’s investigation in to the impact of the GA05.

3. The conclusions of the review panel on clustering of betting shops

3.1 There is considerable concern at the local level at the way that betting shops cluster together in local communities. This issue has attracted considerable interest among local residents, community groups, residents associations and businesses. Local concerns have centred on the inability of provisions within the GA05 to enable local stakeholders to influence licensing decisions and to prevent betting shop clusters occurring.

3.2 The panel received evidence from local stakeholders which described the impact that the clustering of betting shops was having within the communities. The panel concluded that although the clustering of betting shops had not brought any increase in crime, betting shops were associated with incidents of low-level disorder (mainly criminal damage of FOBTs) and anti-social behaviour (outside betting shops). From evidence collected from local residents, community groups and residents’ associations, it was also concluded that clustering had:

§ impacted on the retail appeal and character of areas in which local people live

§ contributed to increase levels of street litter and other related shop generated debris

§ contributed to concerns about the longer term sustainability of local shopping centres.

3.3 The panel concluded that the removal of the ‘demand test’ within the GA05 limited the ability of the Licensing Authority to plan and shape neighbourhoods in relation to the needs of local residents. This has limited the Licensing Authority’s ability to influence the number or distribution of betting shops and to prevent clustering.

3.4 The operation of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) is a significant contributor to the profitability of individual betting shops. Evidence received from gambling operators suggested that such gaming machines contribute to about 50% of betting shop profits. Given the restrictions on the number of FOBTs allowed in betting shops (n=4), the review panel concluded that this was possibly contributory factor in the clustering of betting shops. The panel recommended that further research is undertaken at the national level in to this issue.

3.5 Under provisions within the GA05, there is little opportunity for genuine local concerns to be considered within premises gambling license applications which has precipitated considerable local frustration. In order for local stakeholders to influence gambling license decisions, representations must produce sufficient evidence to be able to demonstrate how the granting of a specific premises license will affect the core objectives of gambling. That is, how will the granting of one specific license impact, for example, on crime and disorder in that locality? The panel concluded that to produce such weight evidence would put this beyond the means or resources of Local Authorities or other interested parties.

3.6 There is no remedy within the GA05 to limit the clustering of betting shops. The review panel concluded that Ministerial suggestions that the application of Article 4 Direction (planning policy) to control clustering were likely to be costly, subject to legal challenge and unlikely to control for this specific business use (i.e. betting shops).

June 2011


[1] Scrutiny Review Clustering of Betting Shops, Overview & Scrutiny Committee, Haringey Council (www.haringey.gov.uk)

Prepared 29th July 2011