The LGA – ABB framework developed by the Betting Commission is an opportunity to create a new relationship between councils and the betting industry that helps to ensure councils are confident that their concerns are listened to and acted on. It also aims to reassure the industry that councils recognise their right to be on the high streets.
The framework builds on earlier examples of joint working between councils and the industry. In Ealing, the Southall Betwatch was set up to address concerns about crime and disorder linked to betting shops in the borough.
As a result, crime within gambling premises reduced by 50 per cent alongside falls in public order and criminal damage offences. In December last year, the Medway Responsible Gambling Partnership was launched by Medway Council and the ABB. The first of its kind in Britain, the voluntary agreement allows anyone who is concerned they are developing a problem with their gambling to exclude themselves from all betting shops in the area.
Cllr Tony Page, LGA Licensing spokesman, said: “Councils are not anti-bookies but many have concerns around the proliferation of shops on their high streets. The Betting Commission was the first time that councillors and betting shops firms had sat down to discuss the concerns around betting shops and to try and find a solution. It showed that while we might not agree on everything, there is a desire on both sides to increase joint-working in order to try and use existing powers to tackle local concerns, whatever they might be.
Schemes in Medway and Ealing show how it can be possible in areas where there are strong feelings about betting shops to work together to try to find pragmatic ways of addressing concerns about them.
While this might not work everywhere, we would encourage councils with concerns about betting shops, or those wanting to enhance their local regulation, to consider this framework. Launching it is a good first step, but we need to make sure that it is used and acted on, by councils and betting shops alike.”
Paul Darling QC, ABB Chairman, said:
“We are pleased to have worked with the LGA through the Betting Commission, and to be able to have discussed issues of concern to all of us in detail. We all look forward through this partnership agreement to building on the successes of different projects betting shop operators and Councils are already doing, and discussing concerns in an open and transparent way.