Newham Council, the local governing authority for the borough of Newham in east London, has had its attempt to stop a bookmakers opening in one of the borough’s popular shopping streets overturned by a magistrate.
Betting shop company Paddy Power, one of the largest providers of gaming services in the British Isles, had earmarked the site of a former restaurant at the junction of Green Street and Plashet Grove to open a betting shop in its bid to attract punters in the Upton Park area.
However Paddy Power’s application for an operator’s licence was rejected by the council, who feared the outlet would lead to an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour, discouraging shoppers and tourists from visiting Green Street, which is well-known for its wide variety of ethnic shops, market and pubs.
Councillors were also concerned that Paddy Power would also gain most of its profits from the new shop through fixed odds betting terminals, which have been criticised along with fruit machines for making gambling more attractive and causing financial and mental harm to those addicted to gambling. Some fruit machines, also known as slot machines, offer bets of up to £100 on a 20-second spin of the wheel – and they have been dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling. Bookmakers have found them to be useful in drawing in younger gamblers who normally avoid betting shops as unfashionable places. The computerised machines, on which users can win or lose hundreds of pounds in a matter of minutes, are fast replacing traditional paper bids at staffed counters.
The operation licence’s refusal was challenged by Paddy Power and the dispute was then taken to court. A judge sitting at Thames Magistrates Court, a middle-level court located in nearby Bow, overturned Newham Council’s decision, enabling Paddy Power to continue its bid for the commercial property, which was occupied by a branch of the Kebabish Original restaurant chain and had been empty for some time. There is already an existing branch of Paddy Power at the junction of Green Street with Crescent Road, close to Upton Park tube station and the football ground of West Ham United.
District judge Paul Goldspring, presiding over the court session held on Monday 17th June, stated that it was not “proved that the granting of the licence would not be reasonably consistent with the objective of preventing crime and disorder. Therefore I disagree with the decision of the [council’s] subcommittee; and, in light of the evidence before me, it was wrong.“
The council expressed disappointment at the ruling at Thames Magistrates Court, with councillor Ian Corbett, executive member for the environment commenting in the council-run community publication The Newham Mag “We are disappointed and will decide what we do next. The law needs to be changed so that our residents do not have to suffer anti-social behaviour connected to betting shops. We have an industry that currently, in law, is above families and hard-working small businesses. This cannot be right.”
The ruling has also been criticised by anti-gambling campaigners who fear that the new shop will cause more financial problems for poorer Upton Park residents, particularly families affected by gambling addiction. Newham Council has also slated the Gambling Commission, the British government body that regulates the betting industry, as being ineffectual and allowing Newham to be flooded by an army of betting shops.
Newham is one of the poorest local government areas in London and the United Kingdom, with many main streets home to dozens of bookmakers, including branches of Coral, Ladbrokes, and Paddy Power, offering gaming machines and bets on horse-racing, rugby and football.
Paddy Power, in a statement released to the Guardian newspaper said of the legal aspects of the judge’s decision “We welcome the fact that the confusion surrounding primary activity has been clarified, with Newham conceding during the proceedings that the 2005 Gambling Act relates only to whether an operator provides facilities for a genuine betting business. The judge also noted that he ‘believe[d] the concept to fall outside the remit of [Newham] “. Paddy Power also countered criticism of their business practices, stating that their outlets are providing jobs for Newham locals with corporate policy placing an emphasis on the need to make a positive contribution to the local communities that the company operates in.
Bookmakers have been condemned for saturating poorer areas of London with gambling outlets, allegedly to exploit those on low incomes, and advertising themselves to vulnerable potential customers who see gambling on odds as a chance to escape poverty. As Britain recovers from the recession, numerous businesses in London’s high streets have closed down, with betting companies scrambling to take over the vacated outlets. This has led to major streets in Newham, such as Green Street, Barking Road and Romford Road having as many as half-a-dozen betting shops and loan companies in one block. The borough itself is home to more than eighty betting shops – the third highest amount of all London boroughs, according to the Guardian. This equates to six for every square mile of the borough.
Paddy Power, a major multinational provider of gaming services, began operations in 1988 and soon became a major player in the UK and Irish betting industry. It specialises in both high street stores as well as online betting and gambling via mobile apps. It runs a portfolio of 500 stores in the UK & ROI employing 2,500 staff with an annual turnover of €4.2 billion (£3.6 billion GBP). Headquartered in the Clonskeagh district of Ireland’s capital Dublin, Paddy Power has made significant gains through promoting an friendly Irish image, a modern day interpretation of the luck of the Irish in addition to its keen embrace of new methods of gambling.
RELATED NEWS from Zemanta
- Judge overturns Newham Council betting shop decision (london24.com)
- High-stakes Britain: PaddyPower in court over spread of fixed odds gaming machines (independent.co.uk)
- Newham council’s decision to block betting shop goes before judge (guardian.co.uk)
- 82 betting shops are in just one London borough¿. That¿s six per square mile as council launches court bid to prevent more opening (thisismoney.co.uk)
- Paddy Power wins licence refusal appeal (arunbabyveranakunnel.wordpress.com)
- Paddy Power wins legal case over shop licence (telegraph.co.uk)
- New Evidence Shows Addictive Betting Shop Roulette Machines Prey on the Vulnerable (sys-con.com)