MPs call for cap on slot machines

Calls by MPs for local authorities to be allowed to permit betting shops to operate more than four high-stake gaming machines have been criticised by Bradford Council.

Its leader Councillor David Green said the move was “missing the point” and that simply looking at grouping of bookies in isolation would not solve the problems of maintaining a good mix of shops.

“What we need is to be able to look at how many betting shops a particular high street, such as Bradford city centre or Keighley town centre, can cope with,” he said.

“The situation in Bradford is that the operators are taking advantage of the decline in other retail interest in the city centre.”

His comments were backed up by the Local Government Association which called the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s response to the problem “completely illogical”.

Councillor Clyde Loakes, vice-chairman of the LGA’s environment and housing board, said: “It’s clearly not sensible to increase the number of slot machines in betting shops to tackle the problem of too many slot machines.”

Under existing regulations bookies are limited to four such machines per shop, which has led to the “clustering” of shops in some high streets. The machines can accept stakes of up to £100 and offer prizes of £500, and offer casino games such as roulette or virtual sports such as horse racing.

MPs in the committee said yesterday they believe that these strict rules should be relaxed which would prevent operators opening branches in proximity to each other.

Local MPs Gerry Sutcliffe and Philip Davies are members of the select committee.

Mr Sutcliffe (Lab, Bradford South) told the Telegraph & Argus that this was a positive step forward. “This is a good way of dealing with the proliferation of betting shops,” he said.

“What seems to be the key issue is the number of gambling machines and, if a local authority could, for example, put an overall limit on the number of machines allowed in the city or town centre, then this would stop others coming in.”

The report comes after T&A mounted its Beat the Betting Blight campaign which calls for a change in the law to help restrict the number of betting shops.

The campaign calls for gambling premises to be required to apply for a licence or be subject to a special planning category that would give local authorities the power to refuse them if it would be detrimental to the local shopping environment.

There are now ten bookies in the city centre, as well as eight amusement arcades and two casinos.


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