Updated: Saturday, 11th July 2020 @ 7:39am

Betting shops and machines dubbed 'crack cocaine' of gambling targeted in Oldham Council clampdown

Betting shops and machines dubbed 'crack cocaine' of gambling targeted in Oldham Council clampdown

| By Matthew Gammond

Betting shops and fixed odds betting machines dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling are being targeted in a campaign by Oldham Council.

The local authority has signed up to a joint submission to Government under the Sustainable Communities Act saying that councils should be given control over where and when bookmakers can open for business.

This would require betting shops to obtain special planning permission before opening – similar to the rules in place for casinos and nightclubs – and should lose their automatic right to move into former pubs and restaurant premises.

Oldham Council leader Jim McMahon said: "The wave of betting shops opening nationally not only blights high streets but it also targets the most vulnerable members of our communities in testing economic times."

"This stance isn't about being pro or anti-gambling, but we do firmly believe the planning laws need updating to reflect the big changes that have taken place in the betting industry in recent years.

“Especially the introduction of fixed odds betting machines on which punters can bet up to £300 a minute and have been likened to the 'crack cocaine' of gambling by campaigners.”

There are 38 betting shops across the borough including a cluster of eight in the town centre area.

The Mary Portas independent review in 2011, commissioned by the government, said that that these businesses were ‘blighting’ the high street.

He added: "We believe residents should be able to have their say and shape the communities where they live and work, which is why we're backing this proposal to see betting shops given their own use class, as is currently the case for nightclubs and casinos.

"The change would mean bookmakers would have to go through a more rigorous planning procedure before opening new branches - one in which residents and councillors can all have their say on every application and consider its potential impact on an area.

"This issue is also part of the wider concerns we know many local authorities share with us about the health of our high streets.

“Clusters of bookmakers, high-interest payday lenders and pawnbrokers taking 25-year leases on vacant shop units have become a challenge which we simply cannot tackle as planning laws stand.

“This problem is not a short-term one. It needs government to listen and take a more sympathetic view that allows local people to have a meaningful voice about what opens in their high streets."

Those wishing to sign the national e-petition Help councils stop betting shops taking over our high streets can do so by clicking here.

Picture courtesy of Thomas Hawk via Flickr, with thanks