Ed Miliband vows to crackdown on betting shop openings during visit to Kilburn High Road
PUBLISHED: 14:29 20 December 2013 | UPDATED: 14:29 20 December 2013
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Ed Miliband has vowed to give councils the power to halt the number of betting shops opening in their boroughs if Labour comes into power during a visit to Kilburn today.
The party leader announced the proposals the day after the Times revealed an 11th gambling den plans to open in Kilburn High Road.
Mr Miliband said Labour would amend planning and gambling laws to enable councils in England, Scotland and Wales to curb the spread of betting shops and to review the number of high-speed, high-stakes fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) allowed on their premises - including banning them altogether.
They also want to legislate to increase the time between plays on FOBTs, sometimes dubbed “the crack cocaine of gambling”, by introducing pop-ups warning players how long they have been playing.
The alerts will also tell players how much they have lost.
Currently players can wager £100 every 20 seconds, making them highly addictive, drawing players in so they lose more than they intend, according to critics.
Many are located in deprived areas, where they have become associated with crime, anti-social behaviour and the laundering of drugs money, as well as adding to problems of indebtedness.
Mr Miliband said the current limit of four FOBTs in any one betting shop, had simply led to “clusters” of shops opening together, often operating from 7.30am to 10pm, with councils powerless to act.
Kilburn High Road, which is split between Brent and Camden Council, has become a magnet for gambling businesses in the last few years with bookmakers William Hill boasting three branches and Ladbrokes two.
Paddy Power plan to open their second branch on the mile long thorough fare if granted permission by Brent Council.
Mr Miliband said: “In the poorest areas, these are spreading like an epidemic along high streets with the pawn shops and pay day lenders that are becoming symbols of Britain’s cost of living crisis.
“This has huge consequences for our communities, causing debt and misery for families, and often acting as a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour. But currently, there is almost nothing that can be done to stop the spread of FOBTs.
“The time has come to give local communities the right to pull the plug on these machines - the right to decide if they want their high streets to be the place for high stakes, high speed, high cost gambling.”
Cllr Mike Katz, Camden councillor for the Kilburn ward, who has lobbied against the flurry of bookmakers and pay day lender shops on the high street, and backs calls for local authorities to be given tighter controls over betting shop applications.
He said : “The high street is turning into one long stretch of bookies and pay day lenders..
“It feels like they are preying on people who are up against it when people really want to see a wider spread of shops.”
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