Yesterday, was not a good day for my local council here in the London Borough of Newham, which if you didn't already know (see my last post) is one of the poorest and most deprived in the country, high unemployment, child poverty and to top all that off, we have one of the highest early death mortality rates in the UK.
I suppose, when people are as poor as they are in Newham, the temptation to have a little flutter down at the local betting office in the hope of winning a bit more money can be alluring, powerful and seductive to many, so much so that we have 82 such outlets in the Borough, that's six for every square mile. I would argue, that so bad is it that you fall over them every time you set foot out of the front door; on a relatively small stretch of the Barking Road near to where I live in Canning Town I have counted four of them operated by different facilitators of gambling, all big multinationals like Paddy Power who won its appeal at Thames magistrates court against a refusal by the council, to allow it to open another betting shop in its area.
In February councillors rejected an operator's licence to Paddy Power, arguing and citing evidence that the shop would attract crime and what they considered would be antisocial behaviour, and that profits would come mostly from the installation of high-speed, high-stakes gambling machines rather than the old traditional over the counter placed bets.
But nevertheless, the judge in using legal language and said that it was not “proved that the granting of the licence would not be reasonably consistent with the objective of preventing crime and disorder. He, district judge Paul Goldspring (an appropriate name) said in summing up; “Therefore I disagree with the decision of the (council’s) subcommittee: and, in light of the evidence before me, it was wrong.”
Before I continue I have this to say about Paul Goldspring, more of an observation really, but an actual fact that matters. Goldspring was only appointed District Judge with effect on 3 June, on the advice of Chris Grayling MP the Lord Chancellor, so it may be that the judge has an inclination to support the opinions of government and its free market philosophy, and when considered in that light it's then likely that he upholds that doctrine before anything else, even the harm that gambling may do to those who can least afford it.
So Goldspring seems not to have considered the harmful effects that gambling has and may have on the the gambler, such as they can’t control the impulse to gamble, even when they know their gambling is hurting themselves or their loved ones.
Only last week the herald Scotland reported that a gambler launched a vicious attack on shop staff after losing heavily, he was given a lifelong restriction banning him from all shops and a two years and eight month prison sentence.
Stephen Timms one of our local MPs here in Newham and a former Treasury Minister, who gave evidence to the judge said that the spread of betting shops, could lead to violence spilling out onto the street.
He also said: “The proliferation of these shops and these very addictive terminals within them is destroying people's lives. We are seeing families broken up and houses repossessed.”
However it has to be said that Timms was a member of the last Labour government that brought in the 2005 Gambling Act which has led to the proliferation of the casino-style machines.
Meanwhile Newham council considers its next move which may be a judicial review.