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We need to crack down on High Street gambling
12:20pm Thursday 2nd January 2014 in Echo News
A LEADING councillor has welcomed a move to give councils powers to crack down on gambling machines which allow people to bet up to £18,000 an hour.
Ian Gilbert, leader of Southend Council’s Labour group, spoke after Ed Miliband revealed plans to allow councils to control the opening of new betting shops and the number of fixed odds betting terminals in their area.
Mr Gilbert, who is a councillor for Victoria ward, calculated there were 19 betting shops in the Rochford and Southend East constituency and 11 in Southend West – with 120 fixed odds machines in them.
People can bet up to £300 a minute or £18,000 an hour on those terminals.
Mr Gilbert, who is also Labour parliamentary candidate for Rochford and Southend East, said: “Gambling can be a fun pastime for millions of people and indeed I gamble from time to time myself, so I am not a moral puritan on the issue.
“However, over the past few years the proliferation of betting shops, gambling adverts, personalised gambling platforms and fixed odds betting terminals has contributed to an ever-growing gambling addiction problem.
“The clustering of betting shops can cause enormous harm to our community, this is why I’m backing Ed Miliband’s plans to empower local people and local authorities to decide whether they want betting shops and fixed odd betting terminals on their high streets.
“The time has come to give local people and local authorities the right to decide if they want their high streets to be the place for high stakes, high speed and high cost gambling.”
Mr Gilbert cited Southend High Street as an area where a particularly large number of betting shops were clustered.
The Liberal Democrats also voted to give councils the power to ban the machines at their party conference in September.
Graham Longley, Southend’s Lib Dem leader, said the former Labour government’s relaxed gambling laws allowed the machines to be introduced in the first place.
He said: “If they’d taken responsibility in the first place they wouldn’t have to commit to this. It probably isn’t something to get excited about as knowing Labour it will probably never get done.”
Southend Council’s deputy leader John Lamb says he thinks people have a right to gamble, but would also welcome more powers being given to local authorities to limit the number of betting shops in towns.
He added: “We could do with some guidance from the Government on how many are acceptable in one area, and if we had powers to say there are too many in one place, like we can with cafes, that would be helpful.”
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