Wakefield Council joins call on party leaders to cut stakes on high street gambling
Wakefield Council is supporting the call for party leaders to make a manifesto commitment to reduce the stakes on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
In November, Wakefield Council was part of the largest ever coalition of authorities to submit a Sustainable Communities Act (SCA) proposal calling on the government to reduce the casino-style stakes from £100 to £2 - in line with other gaming machines available on the high street.
Betting shop chains cluster their stores together, often in deprived areas, in order to evade the licensing restriction of four machines per store. Councils have complained of significant crime and anti-social behaviour associated with these outlets and believe that reducing the stakes on FOBTs, which are known as the "crack cocaine" of the industry, will help to curb betting shop clustering in the nation's high streets.
This week the Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales, who led the SCA submission and Councillor Tony Page, the Local Government Association's licensing spokesperson, have written a joint letter to party leaders, urging them to commit to making this reduction a manifesto promise.
Council Leader Cllr Peter Box CBE said: "We want to see the stakes offered by these machines reduced and to stop betting shops being clustered together and blighting retail activity on our high streets. Councils coming together with one voice shows the strength of feeling on this issue and I hope the party leaders will support our proposals."
In the joint letter, Sir Robin and Cllr Page said: "None of the measures implemented or currently proposed by industry or government will effectively address this issue.
"Reducing the stakes on these machines is a crucial step which we would hope to see introduced alongside additional licensing measures to help reverse the decline of high streets nationwide. This would be real localism at work."
The letter has been sent to party leaders ahead of an event hosted by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling today (Thursday 12 March) which will discuss the impact of FOBTs on the industry and players.
Notes to editors
• On 28 November 2014 Wakefield Council alongside 92 other local authorities from across the political spectrum submitted a Sustainable Communities Act proposal calling for the government to reduce the stakes on FOBTs from £100 to £2.
• The Sustainable Communities Act became law in 2007, establishing a process where councils can urge central government to assist in "promoting the sustainability of local communities". The government has a duty to reach a decision on a submission within a year.
• The Minister for Sport, Tourism and Equalities has the power to review the stakes of gaming machines and could implement the reduction to £2 without changing legislation
• Currently machines in pubs, bingo halls and arcades have a maximum stake of £2 or less. Only machines located in casinos or betting shops have higher stakes.
• The government is currently considering introducing an additional planning class for betting shops. However this will not address the current clustering of stores.
• As well as reducing the stakes on FOBTs, Newham Council has called for local authorities to be given additional licensing powers, including:
o the ability to carry out a needs test when considering gambling licensing applications
o The licensing objectives under the Gambling Act to be extended to include protection from potential and actual public nuisance. Giving councils the same objectives as they have under the Licensing Act 2003 in relation to alcohol premises, entertainment venues and late night refreshment premises.
• Joint letters were sent to the leaders of the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, Green Party and UKIP today (March 12, 2015). A letter from Sir Robin Wales was also sent to the leader of the SNP.
• The Campaign for Fairer Gambling is holding an event at The Palmer Room, One Great George Street, SW1P 3AA from 11am on Thursday 12 March. For further details contact Lucy Knighton - 07885 912525 or 0115 948 6900