Breckland council leaders back tighter betting shop rules

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Council chiefs in the Swaffham area have backed calls for tighter restrictions on the development of betting shops in their communities.

Breckland District Council is among more than 60 local authorities across the country to give its support to the fight by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling.

Although council chiefs have stressed they do not think the issue is a problem in Swaffham at the moment, they say they do want additional powers to make sure it does not develop in the future.

Council leader Michael Wassell said this week: “We welcome this campaign, which seeks to give local authorities greater powers to support a balanced mix of businesses and prevent a proliferation of gambling establishments in our market towns.”

The campaign argues that planning rules should be reformed so that councils have to examine the demand for any new shop before permission is granted.

It also says that bookmakers’ shops should not be classed as financial services premises, which places them in the same category as banks and building societies.

Critics say the growth of betting shops has been driven by the surge in popularity of fixed odds betting terminals and efforts by betting companies to work round the rules which only allow them to have a maximum of four such machines in any one branch.

The campaign says that more than £10 million was staked in fixed odds machines in the Breckland district alone last year.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, of the campaign, said: “The clustering of betting shops – particularly in poorer areas – has become a significant problem for many communities in recent years.

“It is great to see 63 councils joining forces to address this. Now government has to sit up and listen.”