Skip to main content

Betting Shops (Area Deprivation)

Volume 577: debated on Thursday 13 March 2014

6. What assessment she has made of the social and economic effects of betting shops in areas with high levels of deprivation. (903020)

The Government continue to examine the relationship between area deprivation and the impact of betting shops as part of our ongoing review, which will report later this spring.

Many of my constituents and I enjoy watching football and other sports on television, but we are sick and tired of betting ad after betting ad during every event under the sun. Coupled with the increasing number of bookie shops in communities, that is driving betting culture, particularly among young people, who are promised an easy fortune but do not get it. Will the Government do anything to cut the advertising and this escalation of betting promotion to protect our communities into the future?

The hon. Gentleman raises a lot of important issues there, but I can tell him that considerable pressure is being kept on the industry. I met the chief executives of the big five bookies in December and January. We requested and they have complied with strengthened player protections. The Secretary of State has also asked the Gambling Commission to consider tougher and mandated player protections. She has also asked other regulators to review gambling advertising.

15. Given that more money is staked on the national lottery than is staked in betting shops across the nation, is that not a much bigger threat to deprived communities? Is it not better to have a betting shop on the high street than an empty shop, which is often the challenge? (903032)

My hon. Friend needs to remember that betting and gambling are safe activities. Betting is legal and is enjoyed safely by many millions of people up and down the country. We just need to ensure that those who are vulnerable are properly protected. This is what the Government are determined to do.

What analysis have the Government made of the link between betting shops and the explosion of payday loan outlets on our high streets?

Betting shops tend to be located in areas of high footfall. It is not at all clear that there is a link between area deprivation and problem gambling, but our ongoing review will assess the available evidence. We will report later this year on that matter.

Having stood shoulder to shoulder with the betting industry, the Government have been forced into a series of humiliating climbdowns in the Lords on virtually everything that we have been telling them that they must do—review of pre-watershed advertising, regulating spread betting, one-stop shop for self-exclusion and adopting the code of the Association of British Bookmakers as mandatory, having told us that that was unnecessary. I wonder whether the Minister ever feels that she is in office, but that we are running her Department. I have another instruction for the Minister: give councils the powers that they are calling for to limit the number of fixed odds betting terminals in their areas. Are the Government on the side of local people or of the betting industry?

I am staggered by the shadow Minister’s statement. He complains about the number of bookies on the high street and about the proliferation of FOBTs, yet it was his Government’s Gambling Act 2005 and liberalisation over 13 years—their relaxation of the rules—that put the country in the position that we are in now. I am afraid that I will take no lessons from him.