The Labour Party has today opened up a new front in the war between town halls and the betting industry, by signalling extensive new powers to local authorities in curbing the proliferation of betting offices and fixed odds betting terminals. The terminals, which operate as electronic roulette machines, accepting stakes of up to £100 and paying out up to £500 per spin, have proved controversial, with the lack of direct evidence of harm having dissuaded government from taking stronger action to curtail their growth, or even their stakes and prizes.
Now, the Labour Manifesto states: "Communities will be able to review betting shop licenses in their area and reduce the number of fixed-odds betting terminals in existing betting shops – or ban them entirely – in response to local concerns."
According to Philip Kolvin QC: This signals a radical new approach to betting, with decisions carrying huge significance for the industry turning not on evidence but on "local concerns". Given the importance of fixed odds betting terminals to the economic base of betting offices in prime high street locations, if Labour is in power after the election the stage is set for some strenuous debates, both legislatively and at local level.
Philip Kolvin QC is Head of Cornerstone Barristers and the Patron of the Institute of Licensing.