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Page last updated at 07:46 GMT, Thursday, 9 October 2008 08:46 UK
Call for bookies' ban in poor areas

By Matt Cole
Newsbeat reporter in Hartlepool

Horse racing
The LGA says opening more bookies in poor areas is a bad idea

There should be a ban to stop large numbers of betting shops from opening up in deprived areas according to the Local Government Association.

The body which represents local councils in England and Wales says it fears bookies are taking advantage of people who don't have much money.

The LGA says it wants ministers to review legislation.

Its previous bid for a clause in the Gambling Act, to allow councils to withhold planning permission for betting shops if an area already has several, was rejected.

But now the association is claiming the credit crunch is leading bookmaking organisations to seek shops with cheaper rents, which invariably means they're drawn to open in poorer neighbourhoods.

The LGA is fearful of the impact that might have.

Spokesperson Sarah Cordey said: "We are a bit concerned with the number of betting shops opening in poorer areas, they're taking advantage of people's desperations and concerns at such a difficult time.

People who like a punt will enjoy the extra choice
Russ Phillips, Association of British Bookmakers

"By opening so many bright shiny stores in areas where people are increasingly having to watch the money that they spend, it is a worry that maybe betting shops are encouraging them to part with cash when really they shouldn't be."

She went on: "We know there's a link between problem gambling and family debt. We don't want people who are struggling with money anyway to waste it in an inappropriate way."

Extra choice

But Russ Phillips from the Association of British Bookmakers rejects the idea that his members are tempting people who can ill afford to gamble.

He said: "People who like a punt will enjoy the extra choice and for the others, they're not involved in betting so it's neither here nor there to them.

"We have to let people live the lives they want to live, they're adults and they should be entitled to exercise their choice - most people in this country like to have a punt."

Stephen Bujnowski
Steven Bujnowski says banning betting shops will have little effect

Local resident Steven Bujnowski also believes shutting bookies in poor areas will have little effect.

He said: "A ban on shops in poor areas is pointless because it will just bring back illegal bookmakers.

"If there's no bookmakers for miles around somebody is going to start something up especially if it's a rundown area because someone is going to want to make their money."

Councils currently have the power to veto new bookmakers from opening for reasons such as concerns they'll encourage crime.

But planning permission cannot be withheld simply because there are already a number of betting shops in an area.

There are currently no figures that show gambling has gone up in deprived areas since the Gambling Act was passed in September 2007.

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