Crackdown On High Street Bookmakers Continues
Ministers in the UK government have pledged this week that there will be restrictions on new betting shops. Currently no planning permission is needed to build a betting shop, being in the same building usage category as banks or building societies, however ministers are looking to change this, in an effort to curb gambling addiction. The government intends to achieve this by creating a new planning category specifically for bookmakers, which allow the local councils to have the ability to reject the building of new shops.
Local authorities look to give the local communities “a proper voice” and will involve them in the planning process. In February research from Deloitte suggested that 52 per cent of people wanted fewer betting shops on the high street. Under the government’s plans, these rules are being introduced to give the local authorities the power to stop the building of a new shop if they are concerned about a “cluster” of bookmakers in a given area. An example in Bradford has seven shops in one block.
Ministers are also concerned about the impact of fixed odds gaming machines, where the maximum stake is currently £100, and are looking into reducing this amount. It seems however that this will not be looked at currently, with the preference for a “cooling off” period for gamblers who gamble on these fixed odds machines. Currently, only four of these machines are allowed in a betting shop, so firms were opening more outlets to increase the number of fixed odds machines on the high street.
It is expected that the bookmakers will not take Cameron’s moves lying down, especially Paddy Power who have been looking to increase their presence in the high street to match their competitors. Last year Paddy Power engaged in a victorious battle with Newham Council over the right to move into a vacant space on the high street, and they would argue that these changes might be anti-competitive. A spokesman for Paddy Power told the Telegraph that the changes would be “ultimately bad for consumers” and “a distraction from the bigger issue of how to deal with problem gambling.”
There are no such curbs in online gambling, and online gambling has never been so popular. All high street bookmakers have online betting available, both through websites and the very popular apps, and there are many great offers available for the gambler wishing to sign up.