Stop this gambling with our city's future

Today the T&A is launching a new campaign for a change in the law to help stop the proliferation of gambling outlets which is blighting our city and town centres.

We are not trying to put an end to the legitimate activity of gambling which many people choose to enjoy.

But we do believe that the number of betting shops and amusement arcades is getting out of hand and that councils do not have sufficient powers to stop them.

We believe all premises where gambling is the main part of the business should have to apply for a special licence or, at least, be subject to a special planning category that would give local authorities the power to refuse them if they felt to do otherwise would be detrimental to the local shopping environment.

It is little short of a joke that, under current planning rules, betting shops are classified alongside “financial and professional services, estate agents and employment agencies.”

Last year a Private Member’s Bill, which would have put betting shops in their own category and given councils the power to cap the number allowed in any given area, failed to complete its passage through Parliament.

Now we are calling on the Government to recognise that the proliferation of these types of premises, alongside amusement arcades and casinos, is blighting many shopping centres – and Bradford’s in particular – and to take action in its own right to stop the rot.

The fact that its own retail guru, Mary Portas, has also called for the Government to take this action as part of her report into the future of our shopping centres, adds substantial weight to this campaign.

As our map today shows, there are now ten bookmakers’ shops within just a few streets which should be the heart of retailing in Bradford. These bookies, along with an ever-growing number of bingo halls and amusement arcades, are turning what should be the main shopping area into a gambler’s paradise.

While it is undoubtedly true that there are far too many empty units on these streets, the answer is not to allow them all to be converted into betting shops.

Authorities must be allowed to draw a line in the sand and it’s high time the Government recognised the damage being done, listened to its own advisers and took the necessary action.

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