Newham Council v Paddy Power: MP tells court betting shop clusters ruin high streets
- Credit: Archant
But licensing expert says there is no evidence gambling premises attract crime
East Ham MP Stephen Timms told a court clusters of betting shops “destroy people’s lives” today as a betting chain attempts to overturn a council planning rejection.
Newham Council is currently locked in a week-long legal battle with Paddy Power after its licensing sub-committee refused a bid to take over premises at 297 Green Street, Upton Park.
The borough currently has 81 betting shops and, if Paddy Power wins the case, it will have the second highest number in London after Westminster.
The council based their decision on a belief that the rising number of betting shops on high streets is making them hotspots for crime and anti-social behaviour.
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Giving evidence to the court, Mr Timms said: “[Gambling chains’] responsibility towards their customers seems to have been entirely lost with their proliferation and in the communities where they are expanding so rapidly.
“A manager of Paddy Power told me they had to upgrade the robustness of their machines because people were trying to smash them up, angry about what they lost in the shop.
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“This is what spills out into the street and it’s what is often mentioned by passersby.”
The Shadow Employment minster told the court that gambling addiction “destroys people’s lives”, while street-drinkers outside betting shops put people off shopping on their local high street.
Mr Timms estimated around 50 of his constituents had come to him with concerns about anti-social behaviour surrounding betting shops but District Judge Paul Goldspring pointed out this only accounted for a small percentage of the 95,000 people he represents.
Mr Timms told Paddy Whur, representing Newham Council: “I am concerned that an application refusal may be overturned so readily.
“Planning and licensing are part of a local authority’s armoury for dealing with these problems.”
The court examined a log of crime reports that mentioned betting shops to see if they played a part in the incidents.
Darrell Butterworth, a private licensing consultant, told QC Gerard Gournier, representing Paddy Power, there was “no evidence” that betting shops cause or attract anti-social behaviour.
Mr Butterworth added: “Some shops only have one crime reported in a 12 month period.
“This does not say to me that betting shops attract crime and anti-social behaviour.
“The majority of people in the shops that I observed were well behaved.
“The incidents that we have heard were in the minority of what I observed.”
The case continues.