Councils want tougher powers to crack down on bookmakers

New powers are needed to curb the rise of betting shops which are ‘saturating’ high streets, according to the Local Government Association.

The group, which represents English councils, also wants to see the maximum £100 stake on addictive betting machines reduced.

It comes as a report finds higher stakes on gambling machines may hamper good decision-making.

Vulnerable people

Councillor Tony Page, who speaks for the Local Government Association (LGA) on licensing, highlighted concerns that, “vulnerable people are losing money” on addictive gambling machines.

Fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), known as the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’, allow gamblers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds. There are over 30,000 of the machines around the UK.

Page added: “While reducing FOBT stakes on their own won’t fully protect people from gambling away large amounts of money, bringing stakes in line with other gaming machines in betting shops would be a step in the right direction.”

Tougher powers

He said that councils were not opposed to bookmakers in principle, but that the ability to test their “cumulative impact” would “rightly give councils the power to veto new shops in areas already saturated by betting shops”.

Page concluded: “Councils ultimately need tougher powers to enable them to support local high streets and economies through ensuring diverse high streets.”

The report on decision making was carried out by the Responsible Gambling Trust, which is funded by the betting industry.

After giving 32 people £132 to gamble on a “simplified” version of an FOBT, researchers measured users’ decision-making, inhibition and arousal.

Long grass

It found that gambling with higher stakes may impair the quality of decision-making – leading to more time or money spent betting.

The Trust also called for further research in a “more realistic” setting.

The study was criticised by one ex-gambler who said the Trust was being used to “kick this issue into the long grass”.

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