Three new Wembley gambling shops spark safety concerns

Councillors give the green light to three new gambling shops - despite objections from schools and the police

Council chiefs have given the green light to three new betting shops – despite warnings the area is becoming saturated with gambling dens.

Brent Council’s licensing committee have approved applications to open a new William Hill in Ealing Road, Wembley, just yards away from Alperton Community School.

The application was approved despite strong objections from teachers including Maggie Rafee, the school’s head, who warned that gambling shops attracted unsavoury people who hung around near the school gates, and set a bad example for students.

Brent police also lodged objections on the grounds that the outlet is likely to attract crime and disorder, and could exploit children and other vulnerable people who would be harmed by gambling.

Nicola McDonald, a licensing constable with Brent Police, said: “This location is totally unsuitable for a betting shop.

“Ealing Road is a hotspot for street robberies. Many of these women are female visitors to the nearby temple, and betting shop customers are also targeted.

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“Ealing Road suffers with anti social behaviour predominately connected to gang tensions and illegal drug dealing and usage. Police intelligence associates the local betting shops already in this area to these criminal activities.”

PC McDonald added that police are in the process of implementing a new dispersal zone in the area because of these concerns.

Despite these concerns, the application was approved. Two small casinos in High Street and High Road, both in Wembley, were also given the go ahead.

However, in a rare concession to critics of the application, the shop will be subject to stricter codes of practice, including window signs warning that under 18’s won’t be allowed in, and banning smoking and drinking in the premises. Two staff members will also always be on duty.

In a letter objecting to the application, Maggie Rafee, Alperton headteacher, said: “We feel the betting shop could lead to safety concerns for our students and staff as people who have lost money through gambling and feel quite desperate would be in the area.

“We have worked with the local police to prevent illegal gambling just outside the school. This appears to be in vain if the council will license a legal gambling establishment so close to a school.”

Speaking after license was awarded, Ms Rafee added: “Although disappointed that the licence was granted I am pleased with the conditions. The police officer told me that he is not aware of any such conditions being placed on this kind of licence before, so it is a semi victory.”

Councillor Wilhelmina Mitchell Murray, whose Wembley Central ward will include the two new casinos, said: “These clusters of betting shops attract drinking, crime and anti social behaviour, and they are sending out the wrong message.”