Cumulative Impact Zones for Betting Shops
The London Borough of Redbridge has become the latest Council to pass a resolution urging the Government to change the law and help councils “stem the tide” of betting shops. It called on the Government and the national regulator to make specific provision for cumulative impact policies for gambling in the statutory guidance to licensing authorities.
The issue of over provision of betting shops is not new but a number of recent appeal decisions going against Council’s has reignited the debate.
The battle lines have been drawn. Licensing authorities want more powers to more effectively control local gambling provision, operators want to be left alone to operate and the Government has recently assured the trade “..that attempts by councils to block the spread of betting shops would be frustrated by the coalition's controversial planning changes…”.
Since the Government have no plans at the moment to amend the legislation, licensing authorities are looking at statutory guidance as a possible solution – particularly in relation to introducing betting shop cumulative impact areas.
Earlier this year the London Health Inequalities Network (LHIN) commissioned the Outcomes Group to develop a cumulative impact policy statement (CIPS) for betting shops.
The report found that, broadly speaking, Councils were concerned about:
- Proliferation of betting shops since the Gambling Act 2005 came into force;
- Clustering of betting shops in the most deprived areas, and the impact on the vulnerable;
- Anti-social behaviour in and around betting shops; and
- Longer term sustainability of the high street.
In relation to introducing a gambling CIPS, the report accepted that at this stage “Legal opinion differs on the issue of cumulative impact as it applies to gambling. The introduction of a CIPS remains somewhat of a theoretical argument as no licensing authority has taken the step of including a CIPS in its statement of gambling principles and therefore the issue of ‘legality’ remains untested.” But, notwithstanding this, “…opinion indicated that in the absence of a specific mention of cumulative impact policy statement in the Gambling Act and other relevant legislation and guidance, there is no reason in principle why a CIPS aimed at restricting the growth in the number of betting shops in an area should not be as lawful as similar policies relating to premises selling alcohol.”
In essence the report concluded that a gambling cumulative impact policy could be implemented in principle but, it must be an evidence-based undermining of the licensing objectives of the Gambling Act 2005.
Appendix D of the report sets out a sample betting shop cumulative impact policy.