Clydebank betting shops to face regulation from council

New powers could allow Councillors to limit the number of betting shops in Clydebank.

The law currently allows bookmakers to open branches with the understanding that they provide a “financial service”.

This could be set to change however, as local authorities will receive the right to consider each individual planning submission for fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT) on an individual merit.

Betting shops and pay-day loan companies in West Dunbartonshire have been accused of “praying on the vulnerable” by campaigners.

West Dunbartonshire has the highest concentration of betting shops of any council area in Scotland.

Cllr Lawrence O’Neill, planning chairman, told the BBC that there would be a “presumption against new betting shops” when planning applications are considered in 2017.

Analysis conducted by Howard Reed of Landman Economics of the Scottish Governments recent data shows that “the density of betting shops in the most deprived quartile of local authorities is almost 3 times the density in the least deprived quartile of local authorities (2.8 times to be more exact).

“This strongly suggests that bookmakers are selecting locations for betting shops amongst the most deprived sections of the Scottish population.”

Campaigners say the number of FOBTs on high-streets is concentrated too highly in areas of deprivation such as Clydebank.

Adrian Parkinson, from the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, welcomed this change stating: “The link between betting shops, particularly clusters of betting shops and more deprived areas has been made time and time again…

“Unfortunately successive Westminster governments have dithered on this issue introducing half hearted measures to avoid the crux of the issue – which is the high stakes on FOBTs.”

The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) said they would work closely with local authorities to help implement the new regulations.

Donald Morrison, representative for the ABB in Scotland, said that: “We will continue to develop new tools to enable our staff to monitor problem gambling and support customers who get into difficulty.

“It is right that the gambling industry takes steps to support the small number of customers who are at risk. This is a responsibility our members take extremely seriously.”

However, Mr Morrison also stated that there were economic benefits to betting shops in local areas.

He said: “Gambling is a leisure experience enjoyed by more than two thirds of Scots and the vast majority of people gamble responsibly.

“Betting Shops employ around 5,000 people in Scotland and offer a flexible working environment, apprenticeship schemes and career development opportunities.

“Our shops contribute more than £110,000 in taxes and business rates – the equivalent of £110,00 per shop.”

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