Another betting shop could open its doors in Preston, amid calls from the city leader that “enough is enough”.
Coral Racing Ltd wants to convert a city centre property into its third office within less than half a mile, taking Preston’s number of betting shops to almost 30.
But council bosses today said they were “between a rock and a hard place” because of planning classifications.
Coral has lodged an application to convert Leisuretime Amusements on Market Place into a licenced betting office.
Preston Council leader, Coun Peter Rankin, said: “I think we have got more than our fair share of betting shops in the town centre, and we can really do without this one.”
He added: “Enough is enough - it’s more than enough - but I’m not sure the planners can do a lot to stop it. But we will try.”
The application to Preston Council is for a change of use from an amusement arcade to “financial and professional services”.
Deputy leader Coun John Swindells said: “We really need the government to change the classifications of these because it is such a wide, varied class from hot food takeaway to betting shops and it covers anything within that range.
“And they can all be changed without much redress at planning.
“So we are between a rock and a hard place - we don’t really want them but there’s not a lot under the current planning system that we can do to turn them down.”
Coun Swindells said the application was likely to be called in for discussion at the planning committee.
He said: “If it’s turned down they could challenge it and I think the real problem is that it is stacked in their favour at the moment, which is why local authorities have asked the government to look at the classification of betting shops.”
The council has criticised fixed odds betting terminals, which have been dubbed the “crack cocaine of gambling”.
Coun Swindells said: “The concern is just the sheer number and the amount of money it is drawing out of the local economy, that people hope the one win will get them out of financial difficulties they are in.
“They don’t get thinking time and then it spirals out of control how much they spend.”
A spokesman for Coral said: “The reason why we are looking to open a new shop is because we believe there is a demand for it.”
He added: “Aside from that, it brings employment to an area, it brings footfall to that particular location so there are benefits for that area and the community.”
In relation to fixed odds betting terminals, he said a new code of conduct had been introduced and said: “We take our responsibility incredibly seriously, but there’s no evidence that fixed odds betting terminals are any more addictive than any other forms of gambling.”
Totals for central Lancashire
Betting shops licences: 47
Cash inserted: £36,266,387
Amount gambled: £194,101,791
Amount lost: £6,890,614
Betting shop licences: 24
Cash inserted into FOBTs: £18,519,006
Amount gambled: £99,115,808
Amount lost: £3,518,611
Betting shop licences: 11
Cash inserted into FOBTs: £8,487,878
Amount gambled: £45,428,079
Amount lost: £1,612,697
Betting shop licences: 12
Cash inserted into FOBTs: £9,259,503
Amount gambled: £49,557,904
Amount lost: £1,759,306