Casinos and bookies with high stakes gambling machines aren’t a good bet
Published: Friday 30th October 15
Leading councillors say they want to stick with their long standing policy that Wandsworth is no place for casinos.
And they want to ensure they continue to have the public’s backing as they seek to prevent an over proliferation of both betting shops and high-stakes “one armed bandits” in town centres.
The council is currently undertaking a fresh round of public consultation as part of a legal requirement to update its policy on gambling.
Wandsworth has always said that the borough's predominantly residential nature makes it the wrong place for casinos and has long opposed the spread of betting shops and the fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) they often feature.
These high stakes betting machines are viewed as particularly dangerous because they allow people to wager - and potentially lose – hundreds of pounds a minute.
Council leader Ravi Govindia said: “We are calling on residents, businesses, interest groups, faith organisations and public agencies to help us update the borough's policy on gambling.
“It is a legal requirement under The Gambling Act 2005 that we review and refresh this policy every three years. The current one expires in January so we must now consider this important issue again.
“We would urge anyone with a view on gambling to take part and to register their opinions before November 15.”
Cllr Govindia has previously backed a campaign by the Local Government Association to limit the impact of betting shops and FOBTs on local communities.
Last year he supported an amendment to the Government’s Sustainable Communities Act which would make it more difficult for betting shops to install these machines.
And he gave his backing to another amendment sponsored by the Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales, which called on ministers to give local authorities “effective tools to strategically improve town centres, incentivise growth and protect residents from the disruption caused by FOBT machines.”
Wandsworth has also previously supported similar calls from Hackney Council to reduce the impact of these high speed/high stakes machines.
Cllr Govindia said: “I fully support these cross party and non-partisan attempts to limit the spread of these wretched machines and reduce the harmful impact they can have on vulnerable people.
“This is an issue that would benefit from local authorities and ministers working closely together to ensure that effective measures can be taken to curb their spread.
“If we are serious about tackling this issue then the Government really needs to look at amending parts of the 2005 Gambling Act.
“It was this legislation that opened the floodgates that allowed the spread of betting and gambling that is now so commonplace.
“It was this change in the law that made it more difficult for local authorities to oppose the spread of betting shops and FOBT’s and which also allowed gambling companies to begin advertising so widely on TV screens.
“Here in Wandsworth betting shop numbers have remained reasonably static for the past seven years or so. In 2008 there were 55 and at the moment there are 52. But it is the effect of these fixed odd terminals that is causing the most concern.”
The council is also looking to draw up plans using powers it has under planning laws to try to limit the spread of betting shops. The same powers are also being used to try and protect popular local pubs from disappearing and to prevent fast food restaurants opening up close to schools.
The Draft Gambling Act 2005 Statement of Policy and Principles and Ward profiles can both be viewed on the council’s website.
To take part in the consultation email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Environmental Services Department, Wandsworth Town Hall, London SW18 2PU. Any comments should clearly state your name, any organisation or persons you may be responding on behalf of and your address.