Local councillors and Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) have joined calls for stricter regulatory oversight of the betting and gaming industry, ahead of the 2005 Gambling Act review White Paper.
Releasing a joint statement, the Local Government Association (LGA) and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), cited research that 21% of gambling premises were based within the most deprived areas of the UK.
This has prompted the two organisations to issue a call for greater powers for local councils, granting authorities the ability to prevent the opening of a gambling venue such as a betting shop, slots arcade or casino.
In particular ,the LGA has argued that councils need ‘more legal flexibility’ in order to approve or reject applications for local gambling premises depending on circumstances, such as if there is supported housing, treatment centres or schools located nearby.
Councilor Nesil Caliskan, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Councils are not anti-gambling, but it is time we have a regulatory framework for gambling that above all else prioritises protecting vulnerable people from gambling-related harm and gives powers to local communities.
“The government should take steps to reduce the volume of advertising and marketing offers that are routinely made available via television and online.
“The review is a golden opportunity for the government to implement further measures that empower local communities and their elected representatives to determine what and how many gambling premises they have in their local areas. It is unacceptable that councils have such limited powers to refuse applications for new premises.”
Both the LGA and APCC have also called for measures to reduce betting advertising and marketing volume, outlining a joint concern that those at risk of gambling related harm are being “targeted with free bets and other marketing offers even when they are trying to stop gambling”.
An often touted outcome of the review into the 2005 Gambling Act has been a clampdown on certain aspects of gaming marketing, in particular a ban on shirt sponsorship arrangements between football clubs and betting firms.
Under the LGA’s proposals, this remit would be expanded significantly, with the organisation highlighting betting advertising on sports channels ‘regularly watched by children’, as well as the prevalence of online advertising via social media.
Lastly, the joint statement also backed the introduction of a mandatory statutory levy for betting firms, which would be used to support treatment provisions and “remove current concerns over the independence of funding routed through voluntary donations”.
These same concerns have been raised by the NHS, which confirmed in a letter to GambleAware that it would no longer accept grants from the industry to fund its research, education and treatment (RET) programmes or support its problem gambling clinics.
Joy Allen and David Sidwick, APCC joint leads for Addictions and Substance Misuse, remarked: “We know that people are committing serious crimes to fund gambling addictions and Police and Crime Commissioners are committed to taking action to make our communities safer.
“We support calls for councils to have more legal flexibility and power with respect to local gambling premises and we want to see measures to get to grips with problem gambling online.
“Problem gambling can do a great deal of harm, to both the individual and to society, and we want to ensure that support is available to those affected and, where the industry has acted irresponsibly, it is held to account for its actions.”