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Betting Shops and Gambling

Volume 579: debated on Wednesday 30 April 2014

The 2005 Gambling Act was introduced by the then Government with the aim of liberalising the gambling market in Great Britain. Nearly seven years on from the Act’s implementation, the gambling industry has developed in innovative ways, with new products now marketed and made available on a greater scale than ever before.

In many local communities concerns have been expressed about the clustering of betting shops on high streets. These shops contain highly sophisticated gaming machines that now make up a greater proportion of revenue than over-the-counter betting. In addition, we have seen significant growth in the scale of gambling advertising. The pervasive nature of such advertising means that both children and adults are exposed to a considerably greater amount of gambling advertising than ever before.

The Government want to give local communities a proper voice so their views are taken into account when plans for a new betting shop are submitted. My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, is therefore proposing a re-emphasis within the current planning classes. A smaller planning use class containing betting shops will mean that in future where it is proposed to convert a bank, building society or estate agents into a betting shop it would require a planning application. In addition, the Government will remove the ability for other premises such as restaurants and pubs to change use without being obliged to seek planning permission. The Department for Communities and Local Government will consult on the detail of proposals as part of a wider consultation on change of use in summer 2014.

Furthermore, given the growth in marketing and promotion of virtual and electronic gambling, which present fewer opportunities for face-to-face interaction, I believe new measures are necessary to ensure that vulnerable players are protected. I want players who use gaming machines to be in control of the choices they make. This is particularly important for users of category B2 gaming machines.

I have therefore decided that Government should adopt a precautionary approach and take targeted and proportionate action to protect players further when using high-stake gaming machines on the high street.

I intend to require customers accessing stakes over £50 to use account-based play or load cash over the counter. Requiring better interaction between customer and operator for those engaged in high-stake play improves opportunities for more effective provision of information and interventions. This measure will put an end to unsupervised cash staking above £50, which can rapidly result in significant losses. This is a sensible and balanced approach which allows players continued use of these machines on the high street, while ensuring greater opportunities for supervision and player protection.

In addition, the Gambling Commission is undertaking a review of its licence conditions and codes of practice with a view to strengthening their measures to protect players. In particular, the Gambling Commission intends to consult on requiring gaming machines in betting shops to present players with a choice to set limits on the maximum amount of time or money they want to spend before commencing play. The Gambling Commission is also looking at how additional measures to protect players of gaming machines, such as pauses in play and messaging, should be toughened and made mandatory.

The Government will now prepare the necessary impact assessments and regulatory measures to implement their proposed changes. I expect these changes to be implemented from October 2014.