Why we need to change the law on gambling

Enfield North MP Feryal Clark on the local impact of gambling venues

Enfield North MP Feryal Clark (credit parliament.uk)
Feryal Clark, Labour MP for Enfield North (credit parliament.uk)

Gambling venues are becoming a blight on our communities and they need to be challenged.

In my maiden speech in the House of Commons, I talked about Enfield as being a tale of two cities, with the economic and social divides between the east and west of our borough becoming ever starker.

Sadly, the pandemic has only deepened those divides, and nowhere are they more present than on our high streets. This has been shown through the increasing prevalence of gambling venues, particularly along the eastern corridor of the borough.

We know that these venues encourage anti-social behaviour and draw in vulnerable people, preying on their financial difficulties. The 2020 report from Enfield Poverty and Inequality Commission showed that Enfield had the eleventh-highest rate of child poverty in the country, with one in five workers being low-paid.

Figures such as these make it even more shameful that gambling companies persist in praying on these vulnerable communities, entrenching the issues they already have. Not only are these venues coming to dominate our high streets, but they are also coming in place of vital community assets.

Only recently we saw a branch of Barclays in Hertford Road replaced by Merkur Slots, which itself is a matter of yards away from a betting shop. Sadly, outdated and ineffective legislation means this issue is far from going away and we face battle after battle to stop multi-million-pound gambling companies preying on vulnerable people.

Residents may remember a campaign I ran in spring 2021, where I fought to stop a new Merkur Slots venue opening in Southbury Road, in our town centre. While we managed to ensure Enfield Council’s licensing committee refused the application on very well-reasoned grounds, this was not the end of the case.

The council was powerless to stop an appeal being taken to court, which found in favour of Merkur Slots, and the venue is now open. We are left with a situation whereby people are powerless to stop these venues, local authorities are powerless to stop these venues, and gambling companies are being given free reign.

The legislation affecting the creation of new gambling venues has not been properly updated since the 2005 Gambling Act, almost 17 years ago. Both the gambling industry and our local communities have changed immeasurably since then, and it is high time that we saw an update in legislation.

I will continue to push ministers on this and would urge any constituents who have concerns to get in touch and help me make the case. Together, we can stop gambling venues from breaking up our communities.

Feryal Clark is the Labour MP for Enfield North. If you are a constituent, you can get in touch with her by phone or email:
Call 0208 804 4543
Email [email protected]