More power for Hartlepool council over betting shops after Government shake-up of gambling industry

David Cameron
David Cameron

CIVIC chiefs says they would view any applications for new betting shops “on merit” after a Government shake-up into the gambling industry.

Local authorities were given greater powers to decide whether to allow new high street betting shops to open under a review of gambling measures announced yesterday.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced a review of gambling policy, which also improves protection for people who play gambling machines.

The measures are set to allow councils to refuse a planning application if they are worried about the number of shops in any particular area.

Under the current system, planning applications are not always needed for new betting shops to open.

There are currently 20 betting shops across Hartlepool, and councils across the UK have previously expressed concerns that “ineffective” licensing and planning laws leave them powerless to act on community concerns about debt and addiction and stop the spread of betting shops in already saturated areas or areas of high deprivation.

As previously reported in the Mail, punters in Hartlepool wagered more than £82.5 million on in 12 months on the fixed odds betting terminals across the town.

An average of £226,000 is being gambled every day on 74 machines in the town’s 20 betting shops.

Town MP Iain Wright said the machines were “leeching off the poor”.

David Cameron wrote to the betting industry to say a bookmakers’ new code needs to be stronger to protect punters.

Punters can stake up to £100 a spin on the virtual casino-style games, dubbed the “crack cocaine” of gambling.

There are currently no applications for any new betting shops in Hartlepool, but any which are submitted in the future is likely to come under greater scrutiny following yesterday’s regulation changes.

A spokesman for Hartlepool Council said: “Generally, we welcome any move to give councils greater powers but we would need to give full consideration to these proposals before forming a view.

“However, all planning applications are considered by the Planning Committee on their individual merits before arriving at a decision.”