Legislation making it tougher for bookmakers to open in Norwich is celebrated
PUBLISHED: 09:24 01 May 2014 | UPDATED: 09:24 01 May 2014
An announcement aimed at making it harder for bookmakers shops to spring up on the high street has been hailed as a victory for Norwich.
As part of a government review, bookmakers will have to apply for planning permission and local authorities given more powers to stop clusters of shops appearing in their areas.
Mike Stonard, cabinet member for environment, development and planning at Norwich City Council, said they had been lobbying the Government to put betting shops in a different class use, so planning permission is needed when they go into the premises of former banks, building societies or estate agents.
He has also written to communities secretary Eric Pickles about the issue, as the council wants to stop groups of betting shops opening in parts of the city, potentially driving out retail businesses.
“We are very pleased with the announcement,” said Mr Stonard.
Betting shops - your view
Caroline Tims, 51, of North Walsham, said: “If people want to use betting shops, it’s up to them. I think it’s a good idea to limit the amount people can spend but again, I think it’s a personal choice most of the time.”
John Thirwell, 60, of Norwich said: “I like a flutter on the horses, but I don’t use the gaming machines – that’s where the problems are. I think it’s everybody’s choice and if anybody has a problem, then they have got a number they can call to get help. I don’t think the bookmakers are doing anything wrong. They do check people’s ages to make sure they’re old enough.”
Thelma MacFarlane, 78, of Sprowston, said: “Betting shops encourage people to be silly. I think the news is good, because some people are weaker and I wouldn’t like anyone to get trapped into gambling.”
Frank Porter, 77, of Norwich, said: “I use betting shops but I am not an addicted gambler. I am not against them but I think there are far too many. I will probably go into Coral and put a bet on tonight’s football, but it’s sad to see people using these machines.”
“They seem to have taken note of what we as a city council have asked for. We don’t want to see concentrations of betting shops that will drive out other types of shops and we don’t want other shops not being able to open where they want to because there are too many betting shops.”
Norwich South MP Simon Wright welcomed the news. He said: “It’s certainly a power I think Norwich City Council should take very seriously. There has been an increase in betting shops and there are some areas of the city where they tend to cluster more than others. That’s where the planning system could make a real difference.”
The government has also set out plans to improve protections for players on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), including making those who want to bet more than £50 in one play to pay over the counter, meaning that they have to interact with staff.
But the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) said the announcement would restrict growth in the sector, and meant hundreds of shops and thousands of jobs were now at risk.
Its chief executive Dirk Vennix said: “The proposed changes to the way customers are able to stake more than £50 will impose extra costs on the industry whilst there is no evidence to show that restricting B2 stakes (a maximum of £100) will do anything to minimise problem gambling.
“Limiting access to one product just means the vast majority of responsible gamblers will be inconvenienced and problem gamblers will gamble on other products.
“We also want to work constructively with the Government and the Gambling Commission to keep problem gambling at the record low levels because we share the same objective - that one problem gambler is one too many. That’s why we want to work with all parties to build the best possible harm prevention framework.”
In an online poll, the Norwich Evening News asked Do you think there are too many betting shops on the High Street and that today’s move is the right one?
The results were that 84pc agreed, 13pc disagreed and 3pc did not know.