BOURNEMOUTH Borough Council is campaigning for changes to planning law to stop the spread of betting shops.

At the moment, betting shops are classed as A2 financial services, which means they are in the same planning category as banks and estate agents and can often move in without needing planning permission, only needing to obtain a premises licence.

The Daily Echo has previously reported concerns over their proliferation in the town centre and beyond and now the council is one of 63 demanding that the Government makes changes.

Local Works, which has amassed the support of the council from across the country, said the “clustering of betting shops”, particularly in poorer areas, had become “a significant problem for many communities in recent years”.

It said it had led to an increase in gambling addiction, which in turn meant more family and social breakdowns and a rise in crime. Cllr David Smith, Bournemouth’s portfolio holder for planning and environment, said the council was in full support of the campaign He added: “At the moment there is a concern that our high streets are becoming clustered with them.

“We want a vibrant high street, so it is essential that we have more control of the type of premises that wish to trade.”

The spread is thought to be driven by fixed odds betting terminals.

Bookmakers are limited to four terminals per shop, a regulation that is circumvented by opening as many outlets as possible.

The campaign said that in Bournemouth last year £40,829,305 was inserted into fixed odds betting terminals alone, leading to losses of £7,757,568 – the equivalent of £1,234 for every gambler in the borough.

Support for change in law

MARTIN Johnstone, owner of Bournemouth-based independent bookmakers Jem Racing, said: “Our view on the proliferation of bookmakers is that in certain areas, in the past eight years, the situation has got out of control.

“The problem is exclusively with the big four or five bookmakers who want to be represented in every big town or city so as to not lose market share to their competitors.

“It now appears that the majority of bookmakers – including ourselves – are in favour of a new law being passed to give councils more rights in regard to the opening of a shop.”

He said he thought the number of bookmakers in the UK had hit a peak, with a tax increase on fixed machines likely to cap new openings.