Sunday February 24,2013 : PADDY POWER TO APPEAL COUNCIL BLOCK ON NEW BETTING SHOP
Machines vs. traditional betting on the High Street
The refusal by the Newham Council in East London to grant Paddy Power permission to open a betting shop has focused the spotlight on a key element in betting shop operations – does the machine action on FOBTs dominate "traditional betting?"
Newham has become the first UK council to invoke the "primacy clause" in the 2005 Gambling Act, which it interprets as requiring more than half the wagering in High Street betting shops to be on "traditional betting" such as horse racing and OTC sports bets.
With the advent of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, a popular attraction which enables punters to bet on casino-style games like roulette, the balance between the two has been disturbed, the Council argues.
Given the uproar which the profitability and popularity of FOBTs in betting shops has recently created in Britain following a recent survey , the issue could have much wider implications than Newham, reports This is Money.
Councillor Ian Corbett, chairman of the licensing sub-committee, told This is Money: "We are the first council to invoke the primacy clause to reject a licence application, as we are unconvinced that at least half of the gambling on premises would have been traditional betting.
"We are increasingly concerned about the number of gaming machines in Newham and their impact on our high streets. Not only that, we are concerned at the high proportion of incidents of crime and disorder and that betting shops are part of the problem."
A spokesman for the UK Gambling Commission admitted that if betting shops were seen to fall into ‘non-compliance’ under the 2005 Act, local authorities could review new and existing licences.
Paddy Power is to appeal the Newham decision, with a spokesman pointing out that it does not agree with the Newham councillors and challenges the statement that betting shops are the cause of increased crime.
"We are occasionally the victims of crime, but not the cause," the spokesman said.
A Newham Council source said that it was not anti-gambling, but there were already 81 bookmakers in the area and four applications pending.
"We mapped out where crimes and disorder take place and compared that with where the betting shops are – and it lit up like a Christmas tree,’ said the source.
The Association of British Bookmakers said Newham’s decision appears to be at odds with the Gambling Commission’s advice and guidance.
"There is a misconception that there must be more profit or turnover from betting than machines to satisfy primary gambling activity. That is simply not the case," an Association spokesman said.