Councils are to get powers to ‘ban’ betting shops from the high street under new planning laws unveiled today.
The proliferation of betting shops in towns has been a growing concern among local authorities, with some believing they are increasing gambling among people who cannot afford it.
There has also been concern that many towns have seen clusters of betting shops develop in streets.
A fixed odds machine in a bookmakers. Library picture
Now the government is to crack down by giving councils the power to veto planning applications from bookmakers where they seek a cane of use.
Under current rules, a betting shop is in the same category as a bank or estate agent and can open without the need for a planning application when premises becomes vacant.
The changes mean councils can scrutinise applications and refuse them where there are grounds to do so. Medway council has been among many pressing for authorities to be given powers of tighter regulation over both shops and the number of fixed odds betting terminals.
Making the announcement, culture minister and Kent MP Helen Grant said: “We want there to be a gambling sector that is vibrant and responsible.
"The Government wants to make sure the industry is putting player protection and social responsibility at the heart of their businesses.”
"In Chatham high street - and in streets across the county - people can spend £300 a minute - that for me is too excessive, and should be restricted" - Vince Maple
Planning minister Nick Boles said: “This is part of a wider set of measures designed to get empty and redundant buildings back into productive use and make it easier for valued town centre businesses like shops, banks and cafés to open new premises, while giving councils greater powers to tackle the harm to local amenity caused by a concentration of particular uses.”
But Vince Maple, leader of the Labour group on Medway council, gave only a mixed welcome to the new measures.
It comes after the council called for tighter measures to control the use of fixed odds betting terminals, known as the crack cocaine of gambling.
He said: "There is no announcement on the levels of stake people can bet on the fixed odds machines.
"So, in Chatham high street - and in streets across the county - people can spend £300 a minute - that for me is too excessive, and should be restricted."