Pressure continues to pile on the government over the £100 a spin roulette machines taking over the high streets. The Sun and the Daily Mirror, within 24 hours of each other, this week revealed a 50% increase in police call outs to betting shops and 1,300 incidents of violence on premises in London alone.
Betting shops, which now account for 97% of all police call outs to gambling premises in the UK (casinos, amusement arcades and bingo halls combined amount to just 3%), have become the scourge of the gambling industry. The other gambling sectors have turned on the bookies for bringing the industry into disrepute with their “crack cocaine of gambling”, telling the government to “do the right thing and bring the stake on these machines in line with all other high street gaming machines”.
Councils and their national representatives, who have now decided to take on the government again to force them to take action on the 35,000 machines, have had enough of violent incidents erupting on their high streets. Grown men have been witnessed flying into fits of rage after losing thousands then smashing not one, not two, not three but sometimes four machines – plus TVs, doors and windows, sometimes even setting fire to shops causing staff to flee for their lives. It’s incidents like these that prompted a group of 22 Labour, SNP and DUP MPs, led by Graham Jones (with not a Lib Dem in sight), to write to the bookies calling on them to end lone staffing of their shops. That’s right, the bookies, whilst their shops have been turning into war zones, have been cutting wage costs and leaving lone shop workers to face knives and violence.
In Westminster the council this week decided to act and took the unprecedented step of telling William Hill at its shop located at 357 Harrow Rd, London to get bouncers on the door! After holding a review of the licence and taking evidence from the police, local businesses, residents and community leaders, evidence was brought forward showing anti-social behaviour, drug dealing and taking, vulnerable people being threatened, stolen goods being bought and sold and alcohol being openly consumed on the premises. William Hill, which has obviously not learnt from its ticking off in Scotland for aggressive lobbying and not taking no for an answer, was rebuked again by Westminster’s head of licensing, which told the company to stop contacting all his licensing colleagues over the Harrow Rd licensing review.
If a Holyrood Committee and Westminster licensing authority feel burdened and harassed by the bookies lobbyists, imagine the lobbying going on at Number 10 and 11! No wonder the bookies are now referred to as a “corporate mafia”.