MP calls for council to have power over betting shops
THREE Liverpool constituencies in the top 50 unemployment blackspots rank highly in terms of betting shops, machines and the amount gambled.
In Bootle, which takes in Riverside and Walton constituencies, a combined £440m was bet at 422 Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) in 2011.
Walton MP Steve Rotheram was part of a parliamentary committee which recommended that local councils should have the power to decide if the number of machines per shop goes up or down.
He told the ECHO: “This particular issue polarizes opinion, because on the one hand people are free to choose to bet, but on the other these extreme clusters of betting shops can be damaging.
“At present there is an almost arbitrary cap of four. Some of my Tory colleagues on the committee wanted it removed but we managed to recommend that local authorities should be allowed to decide if the number of machines is increased or decreased. In Riverside and Walton there are already an extremely high number of these machines, known as the ‘crack-cocaine’ of gambling because they are so addictive.”
In a letter to a national newspaper, some of Mr Rotheram’s Labour colleagues have accused the betting industry of taking advantage of these blackspots and likened bookies to pay-day loan companies.
Mr Rotheram said he has “sympathy with the sentiments” of his fellow Labour MPs, but decided not sign their letter.
Areas in Wirral have markedly lower numbers of betting shops and FOBTs than in Liverpool.
In Wallasey there are just 15 machines in four shops, with three shops in Wirral south housing 11 machines.
Just under £76m was gambled at 73 FOBTs in West Derby.