Mayor of Newham ‘incensed’ as betting machines reform delayed

Two betting shops in close proximity, Barking Road, Plaistow

Two betting shops in close proximity, Barking Road, Plaistow - Credit: Archant

The government must help protect high streets from problem gambling by cutting maximum stakes by 98 per cent, an angry Sir Robin Wales said.

The Mayor of Newham called on Theresa May’s government to reduce stakes on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2 to prevent the “clustering” of betting shops in the borough.

His plea came after the Local Government Association (LGA) joined Newham Council in submitting an appeal to the government, but the two bodies said progress has been slow.

“I am incensed – the government has paid lip-service to this process and has been dragging their heels, ignoring the demand of 93 councils that something must be done about these lucrative electronic casinos to protect our high streets,” Sir Robin said.

“I urge the government to end this unnecessary and undemocratic delay this week and heed the calls of local authorities which represent almost half of the population.”

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In 2014, the council led a 93-strong group of local authorities across the country in submitting a proposal to slash maximum stakes.

This was rejected in July of last year, however, but in December the LGA – which represents 370 councils – backed Newham and urged the government to reconsider its decision.

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Between 2007 and 2014, Newham Council reported a 29 per cent increase in the number of gambling shops opening in the borough.

Currently, punters can wager £100 every 20 seconds on FOBTs and each betting shop can have up to four of the machines.

The council said bookies can open several outlets in the same street to get around the rules.

Tony Page, the LGA’s licensing spokesman, said it is “essential” to act after analysis showed 28pc of people living within 400 metres of a betting shop cluster are problem gamblers.

The council, LGA and representatives from the Department for Local Government and Communities and the Department for Culture are set to meet today to speak about the proposal.

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