Hackney gambling problem exposed
- Credit: Archant
New figures have revealed that Hackney is in the top 20 worst places in the country for gambling, out of the 632 constituencies analysed.
The borough’s residents spend £362million per year on game machines in betting shops, according to data released by the Gambling Commission and campaign group Fairer Gambling.
Those in the north of the borough spent £195million, putting them at 11th worst place in the UK, while the south of the borough spent £167million, putting them in 19th place. These figures closely correlate to high unemployment in the borough.
The machines – known as fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) – include games such as roulette, blackjack and poker which are often described as the “crack cocaine” of gambling.
Fairer Gambling spokesman Adrian Parkinson said: “Casinos are strictly regulated, unlike FOBTs which are classified as high-risk, hard-core gaming machines.
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“What’s happened is that you have easy access to hard-core games.
‘‘In places like Hackney, people see these machines as a way to make money because of the high payouts that can be involved. That’s extremely dangerous.
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“You see betting shops moving into areas of high deprivation rather than affluent areas because they are taking advantage of poor people wanting to make money.”
There are 70 betting shops in Hackney, according to MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, Meg Hillier.
She said: “The sheer number of bookies is not good for our high street. It drags the high street down and takes money from our poorest. This eclipses the social housing budget in Hackney. If we used that money we could make a big dent in the housing challenges we face in the borough.”
Long-term Clapton resident Neil Burgess, 57, a photographer’s agent based at Clarence Mews, Clapton, organised a petition last November with over 400 signatures against bookmaker Paddy Power opening on Clarence Road.
He said: “It doesn’t surprise me as I know betting shops target deprived areas. I think the regulations on gambling should be changed.
“We had begging, crime and antisocial behaviour when the previous betting shop was here and we are worried it will return.
“The council’s licensing committee said unless we had proof or evidence from the police that the betting shop caused public disorder issues, they wouldn’t take our word on it. The police said they had no objections so the licence was granted.
“There are now four betting shops and five pawn-brokers within 200 metres on the Narrow Way.”