‘Very little’ can be done to curb gambling venues

Council report sets out concern over rise of adult gaming centres but admits little can be done locally, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Adult gaming centres are on the rise across the UK (credit Erik McLean via Unsplash)
Adult gaming centres are on the rise across the UK (credit Erik McLean via Unsplash)

Enfield Council claims to be doing all it can to control gambling venues within the bounds of government legislation.

A council report states that the civic centre is being as “robust as possible” to protect children and prevent problem gambling amid concerns over the spread of adult gaming centres.

Plans for new gaming centres, which often occupy old betting shops, are on the rise nationally, the report adds. Last year, more than 4,000 people signed a petition against a new gaming centre in Palmers Green.

The council’s head of regulatory services, Sue McDaid, presented the report on the control of gambling premises to the council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Monday.

Sue said there was “very little this council or any other council can do without a change in the legislation in relation to the Gambling Act 2005”.

Under the legislation, councils have an “aim to permit” gambling premises, which means they must moderate the impact of gambling rather than look to prevent it. They are also unable to control the “clustering” of gambling premises.

However, the report states that the civic centre’s licensing and planning teams “have sought to exercise as much control as possible of gambling premises within the constraints of the legislation”.

Measures used by the council include providing local area profiles to show operators of gambling premises the locations of schools, vulnerable people and areas with issues such as deprivation and unemployment. The authority has also developed conditions to attach to licences relating to the protection of children and problem gambling.

In addition, proposals for new gambling premises are assessed against a specific planning policy designed to control the clustering of uses to ensure there is “no harm to the viability and vitality of centres or harm caused by anti-social behaviour”.

Sue said the council leader and cabinet member for licensing had contributed to a consultation on a review of the Gambling Act, but the outcome of that would probably not be known until next year.

Community First councillor Derek Levy suggested looking into ways of informing the public how the council was working within its “very constrained” powers to restrict gambling venues so that people “will not feel let down”. Committee members also proposed looking at whether the council could do more through the planning system to tackle the spread of gambling premises.

In response to a question from committee chair Susan Erbil regarding the consultation on the review of the Gambling Act, Sue said that it seemed that the Gambling Commission was “listening a bit more” to concerns over the aim to permit and that people were “in a better position to make changes than they have been in the past”.