Monday, September 10, 2007


Making history - but gambling with local communities

We made history in Winchester this morning. The City Council's Licensing Sub-Committee heard the very first application anywhere in the country to licence a new betting shop under the Gambling Act 2005.

The first, because the Act only came into effect on 1st September and, boy, does this Act stink!

The Labour government loves gambling, hopefully less now under Gordon Brown, but it certainly loves the revenues it raises. When this means Supercasinos in cities that's bad enough, but when it means targeting a small parade of shops in a vulnerable residential area that's even worse.

What's wrong with the Act? Well, it presumes a right for bookies to set up shop wherever they wish. There is no provision for public consultation, the views of the community are irrelevant. The only notification is an A4 notice in the shop window for 28 days and a small ad in the local paper - no consultation of neighbours, only consultation of statutory authorities; and if a member of the public chooses to object there are only three possible grounds:
- encouragement of crime and disorder
- suspicion that the premises won't be run properly
- harmful effect on young and vulnerable people

Today's decision will allow Coral to open a bookies in Stoney Lane, Weeke. Sited in a local parade of shops its closest other neighbours are a Methodist Church with very active youth work, an adult education centre and a primary school. Coral's solicitor admitted that they expected most of their clientele to come from the local Weeke community, one of the less affluent and more vulnerable parts of our city. The Sub-Committee had representations from two local churches, from governors of the local primary and secondary schools and from Streetreach, the detached youth worker project all objecting to this licence.

I don't question the Sub-Committee's decision, their hands were tied by this iniquitous Act too. The blame must lie with the government that introduced this "Bookies Charter".

Bookies, coming soon to a local shopping shopping parade near you.
I see no problem with that.

Why should we prevent people from gambling if they wish?
Why should we prevent property owners from doing what they like with their property (so long as compensation is paid to those directly harmed etc)?

So long as the bookie keeps within the law its fine. We cannot protect people from themselves.

I fail to see how much this changes. There's always been a bookie at the top of my parent's road. I think there may now be two (EasyBet being the new one...). That's a shopping parade.
I understand where you're coming from Tristan. My main concern is that there is so little opportunity for community involvement or consultation in this process. There is more opportunity for people to have a say in whether a house in their road should have a new porch than to object to a new betting shop. Which of these has a greater effect on the community and don't liberals believe that the views of the community are paramount?
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