Colin Grainger

All (later) bets are off as bookie withdraws licensing application

A betting shop chain has withdrawn its licensing application to Newham Council after the council and local councillors objected.

Betfred Bookmakers which operates four betting shops in Newham had submitted a licensing application to Newham Council to vary its hours.

This would see the hours of operation extended in all four premises from 10pm to 11pm.

The application for the betting shops based in High Street North and Plashet Grove in East Ham were objected to by the council.

As the licensing authority, the council was not satisfied that between 10pm and 11pm the primary activity at these particular premises would be betting and not the use of gaming machines.

Newham Council believed that the application would allow Betfred to benefit from having their gaming machines also known as Fixed Odd Betting Terminals operate for a longer period of time.

Fixed Odd Betting Terminals allow people to gamble up to £100 every 20 seconds, which allows large sums of money to be lost very quickly.

The council also objected to the application on the grounds that it considered that granting the application would be detrimental to the local area and would not be appropriate for the location.

Local councillors supported these objections and made representations against the applications.

In letters submitted to the council, councillors stated that the longer opening hours would attract those that had been frequenting the local pubs resulting in crime and disorder.

In addition, it said “people who were unable to make informed or balanced decisions about gambling because they had been drinking would fall prey to betting more than they could afford.”

Councillors questioned what betting activities would take place during the extended hours as the majority of UK horse racing and other activities would have finished well before 10pm.

The council gave Betfred the opportunity to counter the concerns raised however Betfred failed to provide any evidence to the contrary and withdrew their application.

This is not the first time the council has questioned the primary activity of bookmakers.

In 2013, Newham Council rejected a licensing application from Paddy Power for a betting shop at 297 Green Street as there were already 85 betting shops operating in the borough at the time.

One of the grounds for refusing the application was that its “primary activity” would be from fixed odds betting terminals rather than a traditional betting shop.

Paddy Power appealed the decision and the case was heard by District Judge Goldsmith at Thames Magistrates Court where he overturned the council’s decision. A judicial review of the judge’s decisions is set to take place later this year.

Cllr Ian Corbett, executive member for infrastructure and the environment, said: “We are pleased that Betfred withdrew its application in the face of strong opposition from the council and councillors. We intend to maintain this tough approach with other bookies in our borough.

“We are very concerned about the bookies trying to extend their hours to allow them to make more profits from their gaming machines, after the opportunities for traditional betting have finished for the day.

“We do not want our high streets to be dominated by bookmakers, pricing out other businesses such as retailers or eateries. We will do all that we can to protect our vulnerable residents and prevent the growth of betting shops in Newham.”

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This article was written on 13 Jan 2014, and is filed under community, East London, Newham, Newham Council.

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