March 13, 2013

Council with 130 betting shops within eight square miles probes link between gambling and crime

The largest licensing authority in the country is launching a special task force to investigate the effects of betting shops in a further sign of a backlash against bookmakers by local authorities.

Westminster City Council has 130 betting shops in its eight square miles of Central London as well as several casinos.

The council is trying to establish if there is a link between crime and gambling and whether the public is being sufficiently protected.

Its licensing sub-committee recently turned down applications by several bookmakers to extend opening hours.

Its chairman, councillor Audrey Lewis, said: ‘There is something about the Gambling Act that makes it very difficult to turn applications down and it needs redrafting.

'We are not looking to make a moral judgment, but there is obviously money being spent here that would otherwise be spend on other goods and services.

‘We are concerned whether all the crimes associated with betting shops are being fully reported.’

Last month, Newham Council in East London became the first authority to reject a new betting shop – saying it would make more money from machines than traditional betting – and is calling for the laws to be changed.

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