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Alex calls for councils to have power to ban high stakes gambling machines

Some of the poorest communities in Teesside are being deliberately targeted with betting firms installing Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) with disastrous consequences for individuals and families.

Stockton North’s Member of Parliament, Alex Cunningham, condemned the practices of firms which have been shown by recent evidence to do just that by placing FOBTs on local high streets on even on estates where people can bet up to £300 a minute, or a shocking £18,000 an hour.

In his Stockton North constituency alone there are an estimated 24 betting shops with FOBTs on their premises, operating roughly 96 terminals across the constituency.  And the Labour MP is determined to take action to stop their damaging effect on the local community, backing Ed Miliband’s plans to give local authorities powers to decide whether to stop the spread of FOBTs, cut their number, or ban them altogether.

Alex will be in the Commons on Wednesday to back proposals placing betting shops in a separate planning use class from other premises.  These proposals would enable councils to use planning powers to control how many open and prevent betting shops opening in former banks and building societies without applying for a change of use.

Labour’s plans would also give councils the power to remove or limit the number of FOBTs in betting shops, as well as to take steps to reduce the potentially harmful effects of FOBTs by increasing the time between plays and requiring pop-ups to break up continuous cycles of play.

Alex said:

“The clustering of betting shops can cause enormous harm to our community and it is utterly immoral that firms are able to target areas of high deprivation in such a manner.

There are as many as 132 machines across the Stockton Borough, with 96 in Stockton North alone, while Conservative constituencies such as Broadland have as few as four terminals.  The prevalence of these machines has huge consequences for families, for levels of crime and anti-social behaviour, and for the kind of communities we live in, and it could not be clearer that vulnerable communities are being targeted.

“This is why I’m backing the plans to empower local people and local authorities decide whether they want betting shops and FOBTs on their high streets.  The time has come to give local people and local authorities the right to decide if they want their high streets to be the place for high stakes, high speed and high cost gambling.”