Council's new gambling policy gives greater protection to the vulnerable

Tower Hamlets Council has renewed its commitment to protecting children and vulnerable adults from the pitfalls of gambling.

The council has established a reputation as a borough that takes a strict approach to the growth of gambling establishments, with just one application for a new shop approved in the last five years1.

Last week, councillors adopted a revised gambling policy that allows the authority to restrict the opening of new premises near schools, playgrounds, residential homes for the elderly or vulnerable as well as hospitals or venues where Gamblers Anonymous meetings are held.

Ann Sutcliffe, Corporate Director, Place Directorate, said: "We know that gambling can take people down a difficult path and that the young, the vulnerable and those experiencing financial hardship are at particular risk of being lured in.

“Having a strong gambling policy provides us with the powers to stem the proliferation of new premises, to stop gambling and debt becoming a trigger for crime and disorder, while also preventing the targeting of children and vulnerable people.”

As a licensing authority, the council must review its existing gambling policy and adopt a new policy every three years.

The changes in this new document were informed by a 12 week consultation held between April and June this year in which some residents expressed concern about the impact of high street gambling shops.

Its introduction follows efforts earlier this year that saw Tower Hamlets join with other councils to successfully lobby the government to change the law on fixed odds betting terminals – reducing the maximum stake from £100 to £2.

The council’s revised gambling policy – which comes into effect on 14 December – is available online, as well as at any library or Idea Store in the borough.

1An application for a branch of Paddy Power on Roman Road was approved in 2014.

The Gambling Act 2005 has three licensing objectives that a licensing authority must incorporate into any strategy. These are:

  • preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime
  • ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way
  • protecting children and other vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling.

Nationally five of the UK’s biggest bookmakers – Bet 365, Flutter, GVC, Sky Betting and Gaming, and William Hill – have pledged to spend one per cent of gross gambling yields on promoting safer gambling.

Once fully scaled up, the pledge will see around £60 million a year spent on preventing problem gambling, including around £6m a year for UK charity Gamble Aware.

The announcement comes after the Gambling Commission revealed it had fined gaming companies nearly £20m last year for failing to protect the UK’s 460,000 problem gamblers.

Posted on Friday 22nd November 2019