Local councils to be given powers to stop betting shops opening

By Joe Lo
The UK government is to announce plans this week to give local councils the power to veto the opening of new betting shops.

A new planning class will be created for betting shops, meaning they can be scrutinised more thoroughly than other retail premises.

Currently bookmakers can open without a planning application by moving into buildings vacated by businesses considered to be in the same category, such as banks.

The changes have been pushed for by the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 370 local councils and argued that existing laws did not allow them to take local peoples' concerns into account.

The LGA also claimed there had been a proliferation in the number of betting shops opening up in the last decade. The Association of British Bookmakers has denied this.

Paddy Power, the Irish bookmaker which has been expanding in Britain, is likely to call on the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate the reforms, according to the Telegraph.

The plans could be considered anti-competitive as they arguably favour established bookmakers who already have shops open (Ladbrokes, Coral, William Hill) at the expense of smaller but growing rivals such as Paddy Power.

In December, leader of the Labour Party Ed Milliband promised to introduce similar reforms if he was elected, also suggesting the creation of a new planning class for betting shops.

The move is likely to prove popular. Research conducted by Deloitte in February found that 52% of people wanted there to be fewer betting shops.

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