Letting betting shops proliferate is part of a wider problem


3:17 pm - February 6th 2012

by Sunny Hundal    


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Southwark Councillor Rowenna Davis (who has written for LC occasionally) has launched a campaign that says betting shops are blighting local high streets across Britain.

She wants councils to be given more power to stop them from springing up everywhere.

She has a point, and I support the campaign – not just because I abhor betting shops.

She says:

Betting shops are causing problems in Peckham. My constituents tell me that they take the most from the poorest. They complain that they are a source of anti social behaviour and recorded violence. They say they cluster on the poorest high streets, and put off other businesses.

The problem is that as a councillor, I can’t do anything about it. Current planning laws mean that local councils have no meaningful way of controlling the number of betting shops in their area.

The government is currently consulting on whether to give local councils the powers to take control, so there is a real opportunity for influencing the government.

Is this a massive issue? I would suggest it is, in several ways. High streets are the commercial and social life-blood of local areas. They can make people feel more connected to the area or feel like they should leave.

They can also trigger vicious cycles – if the quality of local shops in an area declines then people stop coming into the area, local businesses go bust, house prices fall and people move out. The whole area suffers.

Allowing betting shops to proliferate also betrays how far local governments let ‘the market decide’ on what shops and services should be on offer.

High Streets should be public spaces for all. That councils don’t have this power (while being allowed to spy on residents) illustrates the skewed the priorities of central governments.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


1. George Hallam

A good initiative. There has been a campaign in Deptford on this issue.

Just like many of the “campaigns” I see mentioned on Twitter, and as noble a cause as it may be, it’s just another in a long line of “You don’t know what’s best for you, so we’re going to tell you” type scenarios.

Lines like “My constituents tell me that they take the most from the poorest” paint the picture perfectly. They don’t *take* money from anyone – they’re given it. No-one is forced at gunpoint.

Betting offices probably *are* a place where people who enjoy gambling a little too much fritter away money they should have spent on their kids. But so are pubs. And shops. And fruit machines. And a million other things. Why are betting shops being scapegoated? And does Rowenna genuinely believe that by closing down a betting shop, the better will have an instant epiphany, go home to his family and become a model father/mother?

No, simply not. And we need to get ourselves out of the nanny state mindset of thinking it will. You can shout “vulnerable people” at me until you’re blue in the face, but it won’t change the fact that if someone wants to risk their money, they will – be it on horses, lottery tickets, fruit machines, football pools, whatever – and I refuse to accept that banning everything that someone, somewhere could possibly use to an excess is a solution to anything.

“My constituents tell me that they take the most from the poorest. They complain that they are a source of anti social behaviour and recorded violence. They say they cluster on the poorest high streets, and put off other businesses.”

Incidently, does this sound to anyone else like a description of a pub?

So, I have to ask – does she have the same attitude towards pubs, bars and clubs?

I mean, christ, this could even be a description of Primark…

Cut local business rates? Otherwise you will continue see more high volume, low capital investment businesses impinging on poorer high streets (similar problem with pay day loan shops). If you just ban them, you will end up with empty lots that are a waste and attract their own brand of anti-social behaviour. That and charity shops which are less harmful but not as useful as actual employee hungry businesses.

I used to live in Southwark (http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/london-bermondsey-westminster/) and I had the direct view onto a betting shop from my room. An ugly and depressing sight. The people frequenting these kind of shops are just as depressing.

But I still won’t sign this petition.

Betting is legal. So it has to take place somewhere.

High Streets are public spaces indeed. But the buildings on the side of the High Street mostly are not. They are privately owned.

If we want betting shops to disappear, we may ban betting, try to educate people about the dangers of betting, impose higher taxes on betting or a number of different issues. Displacing the shops from the High Street to another street around the corner won’t solve the problem.
It’s like telling homeless people that they are not allowed to camp in Westminster. They will simply have to camp somewhere else.

British High Streets are ugly and depressing because the British economy is depressing. There is no easy way out of this.

7. Chaise Guevara

“High Streets should be public spaces for all. ”

Agreed. However, I don’t see how you’re going to acheive that by restricting things that appeal to some of the population simply to appease other, snobbier members of the population.

Full disclosure: I admit that I think “urgh” when I walk into an area and see it’s full of bookies, bingo and other casual gambling outlets. But this is my prejudice and my problem. I don’t see why the bookie- and bingo-goers should be told to fuck off just to appease me.

Allowing betting shops to proliferate also betrays how far local governments let ‘the market decide’ on what shops and services should be on offer.

Often the council can’t block betting shops opening in towns as they are classed as A2 use and can just take over vacated properties with A2 planning consent.

The London Mayor is also campaigning on this issue:

http://deptforddame.blogspot.com/2011/10/mayor-calls-for-planning-controls-over.html

Betting shops are spring up everywhere because people are gambling more. These shops are full of gamming machines that play high stakes and high rewards.

I put the odd fixed coupon on of a weekend. These places are depressing as you watch old women feed tenner after tenner into them trying to win their own money back at the roulette table. The image of James Bond sweeping up the table on a single number and catching the eye of the baddie and his glamorous moll is pretty far removed from reality.

These places used to designed to be depressing, I remember when they weren’t even allowed to have A TV on and everything was on a radio. The legislation in place was designed to ensure that the general public were dissuaded from entering. The betting industry Lobbied New Labour pretty hard to be allowed to tart up these places and low and behold it worked. Now a few years on, we now have New Labour trying to reverse a symptom of something more pressing problem in society. A symptom that new Labour created, indecently.

Instead of campaigning for an end to betting shops, they need to get their arse in gear and prevent our high streets from being taken down by out of town shopping centres. Perhaps if we had vibrant shopping centres the betting shops, cash for gold/pawn shops clones and the ubiquitous charity shops would be ousted?

Perhaps banning them is a step too far, after all people can easily bet online if they want, getting the latest odds from the lovable Ray Winston from just accross the Old Kent Road.

Would a better solution be for councils to be able to apply variable rates, so there would be higher rates for multi-national companies, betting shops etc. Lower rates for local family run businesses that added value to the high street.

Wot Jack and Nick said. And if Davis’s constituents don’t frequent the shops – any shops – they will disappear.

Also,

High Streets should be public spaces for all. That councils don’t have this power (while being allowed to spy on residents) illustrates the skewed the priorities of central governments.

The first sentence here is difficult reconcile with the post, as you don’t appear to want the high street to be a public space for bettors. However, I do understand it, whereas I don’t understand the second sentence; it seems like it was written or edited in a rush without sufficient thought given to its meaning.

Perhaps those moaning could open some businesses they would like to see on the high street? Oh wait, I forgot its far easier to sit on your laurels complaining about what other poeple are doing, rather than doing anything yourself.

Too little, too late. You can bankrupt yourself from the comfort of your own home with late night roulette on major TV stations and a thousand ways to lose on the internet. Last December Britain’s biggest super casino opened in Westfield Stratford, conveniently sited for some of London’s poorest to squander what little they have 24 hours a day, every day of the year except Christmas Day. It isn’t the James Bond fantasists at the roulette table or those who think poker is a measure of machismo that make money for these places, its the slots. It had 30,000 suckers in its first three days.

14. Barrington Womble

Same old Labour.

In other recent threads (example), Sunny appears to think that the popularity of a policy indicates that it’s the right thing to do.

A betting shop will be closed if it is not popular. If a betting shop is popular, surely banning it is wrong?

In the London borough where I live, our elected political masters and mistresses are far more concerned about the prospect of local “sex shops” than proliferating betting shops.

There are official denials, reported in the press, of the local existence of any sex shops which are demonstrably false, as well as the evident proliferation of local massage parlours and escort agencies with promotional web sites which seem to have eluded notice by the authorities. I’m all for local enterprise – it’s just the blatant political hypocrisy that really jars.

Try this news item from the local press from a couple of years back:

Sex shame: MP’s wife in North Cheam massage parlour
http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/local/suttonnews/8381112.Sex_shame__MP_s_wife_in_North_Cheam_massage_parlour/

17. Chaise Guevara

I love this, by the way:

“She has a point, and I support the campaign – not just because I abhor betting shops.”

…Which kinda suggests that Sunny’s abhorance of betting shops would have been enough for him to support the campaign to begin with. I myself hate mint ice cream. It must be stopped!

With all the recent school news about excluding from LEA league tables hundreds of soft and dead-end vocational GCSE subjects, I’d have thought that GCSE certificates in subjects like this would be a definite step towards a sure job in times when youth unemployment is at 20pc:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-16736937

I agree there are some important questions of liberty here, raised by Jack, Andreas and others, that I’d like to answer.

What I’m NOT calling for is a ban on all betting shops. Practiced responsibly, gambling can be fun. I’ve even been known to do it myself.

What I AM calling for is a chance for local people to have a say over what their high streets look like. As far as I’m concerned they are public spaces at the heart of our communities. Why should they just be dictated by the market?

Now some local communities won’t have a problem with a bookie or two opening, because it’s not causing a problem in their particular area. If that’s the case, then great.

But in my area I would object to more opening. There are approximately fifteen within a ten minute walk of my house. That’s too many as far as I’m concerned. They often act as magnets for antisocial behaviour, and whatever their takings, the majority of people in my area think they’re taking over.

But when they complain, I can’t do anything about it despite the fact I’m elected as their councillor, because opening up a bookies is the same as opening up a job centre or an insurance company. No extra permission needed. Is that really appropriate?

I agree with UKliberty and others that this measure alone is not enough. We need to do other things to tackle gambling, and we need to do other things to make sure our high streets improve. But this is a start, and it’s worth supporting.

Well Sunny I guess you and Rowenna are also the types that like cars off the high street through high parking costs, wardens handing out parking tickets and painting red, double yellow and yellow lines in all places.

Every business had an equal opportunity to bid for the property or more like the high street shopper has been harassed out of town centres. Lets go to an out of town mall where one can park for nothing.

It really sticks in my throat when nanny staters like you try and tell the “groundlings” how to live their lives as their betters (you and Rowenna) know far more.

As others have pointed out, there are plenty of opportunities to bet online or by phone and it could be argued that betting shops are fulfilling a valuable community service by providing one of the last places where people can choose to go and enjoy social interaction.

However the inhabitants are not the kind of people Rowenna would like to mix with and they are doing something she does not approve of and that is really why she is campaigning to have them closed down and replaced by…….some nice scented candle shops or something.

Except you may have noticed that there is plenty of empty high street property currently available for let and if the scented candle shops could make a profit, they would already exist. Unfortunately, people tend to buy their scented candles in Tesco.

Anyway, I’d be willing to bet Rowenna’s not too keen on high street massage parlours either………

In Paris, where I was recently, the betting takes place in one side of a regular cafe.
So while punters are queuing up to make and place their bets at the betting shop window, they’re also watching the races and having their coffees, beers and all the other stuff a working class French cafe does.
I quite liked them. Even if they are very male dominated spaces, and in several areas of Paris, nearly all the customers are ethnic minorities.
We couldn’t have the beer thing in the UK though. How come they can have that in France?

Davis:

But in my area I would object to more opening. There are approximately fifteen within a ten minute walk of my house. That’s too many as far as I’m concerned. They often act as magnets for antisocial behaviour, and whatever their takings, the majority of people in my area think they’re taking over.

It’s the ‘retail mix’ argument rather than ‘let’s ban bookies’. Mary Portas has a similar issue with charity shops, but I doubt anyone’s going to start kicking off about ‘banning Oxfam’.

Rowenna Davis,

But when they complain, I can’t do anything about it despite the fact I’m elected as their councillor, because opening up a bookies is the same as opening up a job centre or an insurance company. No extra permission needed. Is that really appropriate?

In a liberal world the onus is surely on you to say why it is appropriate that you (a councillor) should have a say over the type of shop an individual wants to open. I’m sure that many of your constituents think that councillors should be free to interfere with other people’s lives.

I agree with UKliberty and others that this measure alone is not enough. We need to do other things to tackle gambling, and we need to do other things to make sure our high streets improve. But this is a start, and it’s worth supporting.I don’t recall supporting the measure! I suggested that if a betting shop is truly unpopular it will disappear. By the sounds of it, the majority of your constituents will not frequent it, so you will be able to get your way without having to be illiberal. Why do you need to do more?

“Why should they just be dictated by the market?”

Just who is to judge the supposed optimal or better alternative? That’s an important question because the means of controlling competition on high streets is open to abuse.

Around where I live, there is a noticeable proliferation of betting shops, pizza parlours, fast food emporia and convenience stores as well as pubs and churches for reasons of history. But there is also a conspicuous proliferation of charity shops in prominent sites on high streets, presumably because the owners of shop premises can’t find alternative commercial ventures willing to take on vacant shop premises at the going rents.

My guess is that site owners would much rather have thriving betting shops as tenants than charity shops . Who is to do the controlling? I suspect those running a pizza parlour or chinese take-away aren’t especially enthusiastic about the prospect of new competitor opening near by and they might well want to do something about that.

@ 3 Jack

I agree with your sentiment but there are planning laws to control the number of places licensed to sell alcohol whereas there are no equivalent powers for bookies.

It could be a good idea to protect the quality of a high street but I’m not sure that it’ll make a difference to the gamblers. If there was one bookies they’d all be in there, if there are a dozen then they’ll spread out. If there weren’t any then it can all be done online or on your smart phone.

Part of the problem is that there isn’t anyone else looking to open stores at the moment. You’d be mad to open a store with the current climate of fear and uncertainty. The only people who can open seem to be bookies, charity shops and pawn shops.

“Last December Britain’s biggest super casino opened in Westfield Stratford, conveniently sited for some of London’s poorest to squander what little they have 24 hours a day, every day of the year except Christmas Day”

IF ONLY we could remove the slots that allow poor people to voluntarily place all of there money into totaly completely absolutly out of there own free will, if we could remove these money holes we could eradicate the poor and finaly bring an end to this 1%er plot AGAINST the poor.

IF ONLY.

28. Chaise Guevara

I think there’s an argument for a certain amount of illiberalism when an establishment *directly* impinges on local people’s quality of life. If you bought a house specifically because it was in a nice, quiet little village, you might feel put out (to say the least) if someone opened a 24-hour nightclub next door. Or if you lived anywhere and a sewage plant was opened across the street. But these are examples of pollution, and there’s a debate to be had about the right that people have to foist loud music and horrible smells on your home.

This, however, sounds like “I don’t like what my neighbours get up to, and think it makes my area look all tatty, so I’m going to try to restrict it by law”. Sunny points out that people might want to move out of an area that fills up with betting shops, but surely, in an imperfect world, that’s better than them forcing the area to conform to their values?

As for them being a “magnet for antisocial behaviour”, well, maybe, but I suspect that if they were closed that behaviour would just move elsewhere, where you were less likely to see it. And while I’m sure it’s not either Rowenna’s or Sunny’s intention, the whole idea has a nasty “let’s get rid of these awful working class people” vibe about it.

What I AM calling for is a chance for local people to have a say over what their high streets look like.

Do you mean this literally? I mean, if a community opposed the existence of a gay bar or a synagogue being established in their neighbourhood would you agree that it’s their right to choose?

“High streets are the commercial and social life-blood of local areas.”

Blimey, where do you live? The high streets round here are either corporate clones with no life or soul, or repositories for cheap takeaway joints… That’s because people *choose* to do all their shopping online or out-of-town at big supermarkets.

“Why should they just be dictated by the market?”

What a strange question.

What should they be “dictated” by?

With what are you going to replace the betting shops and how are they to survive?Are you are going to force local people to spend money in shops into which they would otherwise not venture?
After all “the market” in this case is nothing other than the spending preferences of those same locals.

The high street is a relatively recent phenomenon, and need not be with us for ever, so this debate could risk being an attempt to dictate the form of something that is changing into something new…

IF ONLY we could remove the slots that allow poor people to voluntarily place all of there money into totaly completely absolutly out of there own free will, if we could remove these money holes we could eradicate the poor and finaly bring an end to this 1%er plot AGAINST the poor.

IF ONLY.

Well, it’s your taxpayer money that’s then used to pick up the pieces afterward. If not to also chuck down the slots to try and make back the money already lost.
If you’re happy with that though, carry on.

From experience on a town planning committee several decades ago, planning departments are reluctant to get into the business of contolling the kind of shops opening on high streets or local shopping centres because of the trouble.

I recall a situation in an established mixed use locality with residential properties alongside light industrial workshops where the established planning policy was to given preference to residential over light industrial uses, which were often a nuisance to residents.

Someone with an established light industrial use attempted to extend that, without planning approval, by converting a residential garage to a light industrial use with the potential to create a noise nuisance for nearby residents.

The council issued an enforcement notice and the party filed an appeal. Two petitions came in – one objecting to the change of use, the other in support. I looked down the two petitions from the neighbourhood – a majority of the signatures on both petitions were the same! I asked the planning officer how this could be? His answer was that the man who wanted the change of use and who had been served with the enforcement notice, was a big hefty fellow who lived in the neighbourhood and who had personally gone round knocking on doors collecting signatures in support.

Local democracy in action.

If this is the left (I dont believe it is), then I hope you loose

This seems just the right kind of puritan campaign that middle class lefties can get right behind. Find something ordinary people like doing and ban it- restrict it or campaign against it. Just a continuum of the last 150 years of puritan terror. Who exactly is being protected here? It can’t be those on benefits who barely get enough to feed themselves. Those on low wages barely earn enough to survive. Therefore, the poor can’t be the customers from whom betting shops extract revenue because the poor do not have any money. See various LC threads for these claims.

If there was a proliferation of bookshops on the high street the campaigners would not care. The same for health food shops or delicatessens selling overpriced produce. Their problem is not one of proliferation, it is the product and the demographic which they disapprove.

The traditional high street is dying and it ain’t coming back. Shopping habits have changed and the internet is putting some of the shops out of their misery. As high st.sales fall internet shopping is going parabolic. Those that survive will thrive because they can carve out a niche in the market selling something that people want to buy at a price that they want to pay. One can’t wish reality away no matter how much we would like it to be different. The best thing some local councils could do is to accept that times have changed and encourage former shops to be turned into small offices and housing. They could do this through offering the units they own rent free and reducing business rates.

Well, I was going to write a comment but Richard W has just said it all so perfectly I don’t need to, except for adding this “me too”.

Chaise, developing your argument would lead to balancing your right to peaceful enjoyment of your property against the rights of the nightclub owner. A neutral and competent entity, say a responsible council, an arbitrator or court, might hear both sides, look at the law and make a binding decision – the nightclub might initially be asked to control the noise. It might seem illiberal to him but allowing maximum volume would infringe your rights.

But this isn’t what the OP is arguing. There is no balancing, no weighing up. Bettors ate excluded. There is no substantive evidence of nuisance or other harm. The argument is for something to be banned because some people don’t like it.

38
Aren’t most things banned because some people don’t like it? The outcome depends on who is the ‘some people’, Henry Ford was quite successful in bringing about prohibition.

Richard W: “The traditional high street is dying and it ain’t coming back.”

I suspect that the vibrance of high streets and local shopping centres varies greatly from one place to another so it’s difficult to make general policy prescriptions.

Around where I live the character of the shops on high streets and local shopping centres has changed hugely over the last 20 or so years that I’ve lived here – green grocers and butchers have virtually disappeared into the local super markets, there is noticeable scatter of charity shops and bookmakers along high streets and of convenience stores in local shopping centres. The high streets are the more affected by vacances but there is observable bustle and pedestrian footfall. In urban London, car ownership is lower than in other places because public transport is mostly fairly good so there are residents looking for local shopping opportunities, a feature of the market noticed by Tesco and Sainsbury, which have set up convenience stores as well as super markets.

No one has mentioned the impact of the growth of online sales of books, DVDs and electronics kit on high streets.

41. Matt Wardman

Rowenna

Can I ask you to explain some things, please.

There are various statements about this campaign that don’t seem to me to hang together quite.

Sunny talks about a ‘proliferation’ of betting shops which doesn’t exist; numbers of bookies are flat for a decade or more.

You talk about shops being forced out of your local High Street by betting shops, whilst Southwark Council are bemoaning shop vacancy rates in their Enterprise plan. How does that stack up?

You say:

“opening up a bookies is the same as opening up a job centre or an insurance company. No extra permission needed. ”

AFAIK that’s just not true. The local community has control already.

Under the Gambling Act 2005:

Every bookie has to apply for a premises license for each shop.
The public can comment.
The Council can refuse a license.
The Council can set conditions on the license.
The Council can review conditions when they wish.

As a local councillor don’t you already take part in that process?

I don’t see any benefit of fiddling about with use classes, when the control exists already.

If the real problem is FOB machines not betting shops, why are you not campaigning against the far greater numbers in pubs and bingo halls?

Could you explain?

Thanks

Along the high street of the central shopping area of the district where I live, there are two Starbucks places within a few hundred metres of each other as well as several other coffee emporia and any number of bank branches and mobile phone shops. Is this too many?

Btw I suspect that the owners of shopping malls and centres have strong commercial incentives to control the variety of their shop tenants.

This is an admirable campaign. Clearly it won’t make the world a better place over night, but no one has suggested it would. A few points I would make:

1) This is a campaign, as I understand it, about democracy. About giving local people a bit of control over their communities. I think you would struggle to find many local communities that would support the proliferation of betting shops that has definitely occurred in some parts of the country. Most people don’t want them but are forced to put up with them.

2) To suggest that a free market=freedom is naivete of truly epic proportions.

3) With a discussion such as this, there is one simple question that we should begin with: Who benefits? In whose interests is the proliferation of betting shops occurring?
Is it the ordinary punter? No. Is it the betting industry? Yes. They want more opportunities to make money. It really is as simple as that I’m afraid.

4) One of the earlier comments suggested that this would change nothing. That the gambling would be driven somewhere else or underground. If this is the case, i.e. the industry stands to make no extra money from the extra and more easily accessible shops, then why have they wasted their time and energy lobbying for them?

What we are seeing now is the socially destructive consequence of New Labour’s prostration before corporate lobbying. That someone is willing to take a stand against that, however tentative, is refreshing.

When people start using comments like ‘nanny state’ and my personal favourite ‘150 years of puritan terror’ (pure genius, the breathtaking ignorance of British history is just hilarious) then I can only conclude that they know they have lost the argument and are resorting to abuse.

Excellent work Rowenna, keep it up.

By what mechanisms are the number of betting shops – or any other variety of shop – to be controlled? Local plebiscites or do councils get to vote on each application to open a shop?

Chris @26 gets close to the logic: “Part of the problem is that there isn’t anyone else looking to open stores at the moment. You’d be mad to open a store with the current climate of fear and uncertainty. The only people who can open seem to be bookies, charity shops and pawn shops.”

Complaining about the proliferation of high street betting shops is rather like covering up spots with foundation when your kids have caught measles. The proliferation of bookies is the symptom, not the problem — although in this case the symptom makes the underlying problem worse, leading further to overreaction by the OP.

I had many misgivings when I heard that Mary Portas was going to advise government on high street renewal, but I was pleasantly surprised. There was more than a little sense in her report but I am not swallowing all of it.

Consequently, I am more optimistic than @36. Richard W: “The traditional high street is dying and it ain’t coming back. Shopping habits have changed and the internet is putting some of the shops out of their misery.”

The high street and internet shopping are not direct alternatives to one another. Internet shopping is not good at providing (for example): cheap, fresh food, dry cleaning services, newsagents, greetings cards. Internet shopping isn’t good at satisfying distress purchases (laying the table for unexpected visitors). And for occasions when the personal touch makes a difference, a high street or local shop is usually best able to deliver it; even if it is not *your* local street/shop, there will often be one within travelling range. If you wish to sell model trains, a shop that is open at funny hours with decent car parking will boost your internet trade.

@28. Chaise Guevara: “As for them being a “magnet for antisocial behaviour”, well, maybe, but I suspect that if they were closed that behaviour would just move elsewhere, where you were less likely to see it. And while I’m sure it’s not either Rowenna’s or Sunny’s intention, the whole idea has a nasty “let’s get rid of these awful working class people” vibe about it.”

High streets have been replaced by shopping centres as the centres of commerce in our towns. It is worth noting that shopping centres do not normally contain within them “magnets for antisocial behaviour” such as bookies and pubs *. There are few places to sit down and young people are discouraged from congregating. Much of the high street has thus been replaced by private space where behaviour is managed, directly by (normally) polite bouncers and indirectly by architecture/design.

Shopping centres are sterile, even to the degree of hostility: eating and drinking is restricted to bland, quick turnover franchises. High streets, or more typically the side lanes, are quirky places where new enterprise develops. Those who consider that economic change is most often delivered by new business than reform of old business should be aware of the meaning of loss of the high street.

*Which may explain why there is usually a Wetherspoons and a bookmaker close outside.

@42. Bob B: “Along the high street of the central shopping area of the district where I live, there are two Starbucks places within a few hundred metres of each other… …Is this too many?”

It may be too many for one of the Starbucks franchisees. That consideration will be less important to Starbucks.

Along with tanning salons, betting shops are a sign that an area is in decline. They are too easy to open, and why do people need them? Labour had an epiphany about super-casinos saw the light and stopped. Now there are masses of little shops, and they are miserable.

48. Matt Wardman

@47
>Now there are masses of little shops, and they are miserable.

Just having checked the numbers on this alleged ‘proliferation’, it turns out that betting shops have increased from 8,862 in March 2009 to 9,067 in March 2011.

I don’t see an extra 1.1% or 100 shops a year decimating the British High Street, somehow :-).

Especially when vacancy rates of 15% mean about 140k empty shops across the country.

>They are too easy to open,

Can you justify that, RG?

Rgds

@40. Bob B: “No one has mentioned the impact of the growth of online sales of books, DVDs and electronics kit on high streets.”

Addressing the first item. Some specialist sellers of car books, for example, retain retail outlets alongside internet selling. Call before visiting is often the message. More than a few will say that having a stall at the right event — direct selling — improves internet sales. I would never buy any book from Amazon unless it was “in stock” and cheap; specialists often have new old stock of out of print books at sensible prices. The story is different for non-specialist booksellers who survive; in different ways, they add value to a book sale or sell more books.

Electronics kit on the high street is a difficult one. If you need a camera or computer today, not tomorrow, high street (or shopping centre store) is the only place. The high street is not where you will get the cheapest price for the latest and greatest goodies. But when the manufacturer clears out the warehouses, you’ll see very attractive prices on the high street for last season’s left overs.

50. Matt Wardman

>@40. Bob B: “No one has mentioned the impact of the growth of online sales of books, DVDs and electronics kit on high streets.”

The other problem for indie bookshops is mainly Oxfam, who have more than 100 shops selling largely donated 2nd hand or mint stock, using unpaid staff, from 80% business rate subsidised premises.

@48. Matt Wardman: “Just having checked the numbers on this alleged ‘proliferation’, it turns out that betting shops have increased from 8,862 in March 2009 to 9,067 in March 2011.”

rentergirl may still have a point. Whilst the overall number of bookies is more or less constant, they may well have shut down one shop and opened another. That may lead to a temporary proliferation of betting shops in “cheap premises to rent” on high streets; the consequences will be prospectors scrabbling to pay rent and staff wages for the shop, and then closing shop. Unless there is a significant change in human behaviour in the UK (ie a government gambling stimulus), I would not bet on an unestablished betting shop.

@50. Matt Wardman: “The other problem for indie bookshops is mainly Oxfam, who have more than 100 shops selling largely donated 2nd hand or mint stock, using unpaid staff, from 80% business rate subsidised premises.”

Mainly Oxfam? I suspect that there are some exceptional regional charity operators too. I have found bargains in them all so I bought them. And when they labelled a title that deserved a price, I’ve paid the Abe prime rate for the book. But they didn’t always follow the indie bookshop rule: knock a few bob off the other prices.

At least Rowenna did not mention “predatory capitalism” – but the message is loud and clear.

This campaign seems to have come out of the leader’s office or has been thought of to get noticed by the leader’s office. If that is the case, all the best to Rowenna even Blair said Foot was the best person to lead the country.

But the campaign is bogus – the pub does equal damage and so does the newsagent that sells the beer. Let’s stop them all until they get a “producer” certificate signed by the dear leader Ed Miliband.

Labour leader would personally certify what money we can all make but we have to forget that he and his brother dodged inheritance tax along with their mother and his biggest campaign contribution comes from a company which is based offshore. I am of course talking about the Guardian.

If the councillor really believes this to be a politically sound campaign she is mistaken and there are other campaigns such as improving schools in your neighbourhoods and not let children’s future ruined by the status quo…. especially since the revolutionary idea of academies came from the Labour government.

But that would piss off teachers’ unions so why not take the betting shop “predators”.

But betting on Miliband and his “predatory capitalism” may not be such a good idea even if the commentators say so….and campaign on betting shops is not going to help

Aren’t most things banned because some people don’t like it?

I don’t know about most but certainly some. Crap innit?

Just to too easy to open? Yeah, licenced as they are, and of course I don’t have stats, and they do seem numerous, wouldn’t you agree? But if you want encounter human misery, then go to a betting shop in a poor area. That and tanning salons, but no proper supermarket selling veg in my old area.

56. Chaise Guevara

@ 38 UKL

Agreed.

57. Chaise Guevara

@ 55 rentergirl

“But if you want encounter human misery, then go to a betting shop in a poor area. ”

For human misery, you could also go to a pub at 10am on a weekday. Or, um, a hospital. The fact that a place appears (to you) to contain a lot of miserable people does not mean that place is the cause of all the misery.

I’m not comparing bookies to hospitals, of course, just pointing out the cause/correlation thing. The parallel with pubs is a lot closer. Are bookies a cause or a symptom of misery? Both, but I think in this day and age they aren’t really that major a contributer. A gambling addict is better off at a bookie than at an underground game, and probably safer there than on superhappyfriendlybingo.com too. And then there are all those punters who aren’t miserable – who go to the bookies from time to time because it’s fun, much like I go to the pub every week or so.

I’m not tarring you with the same brush, because I remember some of your previous comments and they were thoughtful and reasonable. But based on the above article, Sunny and Rowenna seem less worried about saving the vulnerable from their own misery and more concerned about getting rid of all those nasty old working-class gambling shops that ought to be replaced with a Caffe Nero or something.

58. So Much For Subtlety

High Streets should be public spaces for all.

But not it seems gamblers.

The free market is open to all. What you want to replace it with – a bunch of silly women and worse men in stupid hats – is not open to all. I don’t see why some unrepresentative weirdos who happened to get elected because no one else wanted the job should control what the rest of us can do.

59. Chaise Guevara

@ 36 Richard W

“This seems just the right kind of puritan campaign that middle class lefties can get right behind. Find something ordinary people like doing and ban it- restrict it or campaign against it. ”

Could I just say that not all of us middle-class lefties will be getting behind it, and that we’re probably “ordinary people” too? Agreed with the meat of your post, just wanted to point that out.

60. So Much For Subtlety

19. Rowenna

What I’m NOT calling for is a ban on all betting shops. Practiced responsibly, gambling can be fun. I’ve even been known to do it myself.

Part of Britain’s long-running campaign to make our underclass behave like the middle class? I am totally sympathetic. But I don’t think moving betting shops out of the reach of the poor is going to produce the desired behavioural change.

What I AM calling for is a chance for local people to have a say over what their high streets look like. As far as I’m concerned they are public spaces at the heart of our communities. Why should they just be dictated by the market?

Because they do. If local people don’t gamble, betting shops don’t open. The market is just the sum of all the desires of the local people. What you mean is not that the local people ought to have a say but that you ought to have control to do what is best for the peasants. That is a very different claim. They are public spaces and so they should be left to the public, ie the market, not taken over by the State to run in our own best interests.

But in my area I would object to more opening. There are approximately fifteen within a ten minute walk of my house. That’s too many as far as I’m concerned. They often act as magnets for antisocial behaviour, and whatever their takings, the majority of people in my area think they’re taking over.

So this is a property price issue? How do you know they are a magnet for anti-social behaviour?

But when they complain, I can’t do anything about it despite the fact I’m elected as their councillor, because opening up a bookies is the same as opening up a job centre or an insurance company. No extra permission needed. Is that really appropriate?

You can do something – you can tell them this is a free country. Even though it isn’t. You can tell them that it is not the job of the local council to micro-manage other people’s lives. Why should any permission be needed at all? What possible business is it of yours or anyone else’s?

I agree with UKliberty and others that this measure alone is not enough. We need to do other things to tackle gambling, and we need to do other things to make sure our high streets improve. But this is a start, and it’s worth supporting.

It is a start, but it is not worth supporting. You want people not to gamble, take to preaching Methodism on the street corner. Or better yet explain to people how a better life involves getting married, having children, taking responsibility for your own life and those of your family. But wait, you would have to lobby for changes in the laws to actually enable men to do those things. That is not going to happen is it? As long as the British government treats men as irrelevant and pushes them away from their responsibilities, more and more of them are going to behave as if they are irrelevant – and seek pleasure rather than duty, in gambling, in drugs, in alcohol and in sex tours to Thailand. Why not? Curing that would be hard. But it would work. Banning high street bookies won’t.

43. representingthemambo

” Most people don’t want them but are forced to put up with them. ”

Have you asked the people who use them, or do they not count?

” With a discussion such as this, there is one simple question that we should begin with: Who benefits? In whose interests is the proliferation of betting shops occurring? Is it the ordinary punter? No. Is it the betting industry? Yes. They want more opportunities to make money. It really is as simple as that I’m afraid. ”

So your objection is to the making of money. Could you give me a list of retailers on the High St. who are not trying to make money? Should be a long list if betting shops are unique in this respect. Presumably you envisage an alternative use that does include the making of money. Like to give us a list of the retailers that you have in mind?

” One of the earlier comments suggested that this would change nothing. That the gambling would be driven somewhere else or underground. If this is the case, i.e. the industry stands to make no extra money from the extra and more easily accessible shops, then why have they wasted their time and energy lobbying for them? ”

You appear to start from a presumption that gambling equals bad. The poor helpless wretches need to be saved by good ol enlightened you. Which kind of makes you a puritan.

@ 45. Charlieman

Of course online will kill every type of shopping. It depends what line of business the retailer operates in. The internet reduced Comet to worth £2, destroyed value in the Game Group and has just about killed HMV. There are a whole bunch who are in the same boat and it is not just the internet. The supermarkets took their market share by selling the same products. Even the humble newsagents make less as newspaper sales have declined and people buy less other products from them when they pop in for a newspaper. Make money do anything easily replicable and others will copy reducing profits to opportunity cost. That is how markets ought to operate. Bizarrely enough that is what has happened to margins with the big High St. bookmakers in recent years.

As I said, the retailers who will continue to thrive are those who offer something different or do it better. My question to those who believe that there is a mass of new retailers just waiting to enter the High St. if we just made some tweaks and kicked out the undesirables that the puritans do not like. If selling something on the High St. is such a good idea and profitable why is it not already being done?

Of course online will not kill every type of shopping.

@55. rentergirl: “But if you want encounter human misery, then go to a betting shop in a poor area. That and tanning salons, but no proper supermarket selling veg in my old area.”

If you wish to talk about poverty, 1960s poverty, growing up adjacent to the council destructor (the plant that consumed domestic rubbish), I am happy to discuss. That is where I grew up.

My Dad placed a few modest bets and was one of the finest snooker players in an era when you couldn’t earn a living from playing snooker. My five sisters collectively bought a sun tanning lamp (domestic tanning salon?). As a child I bought eggs and veg from neighbours.

Being poor is about being modest. And remembering from where you come from.

“go to a betting shop in a poor area” is offensive. May I not gamble with neighbours?

Let’s stop them all until they get a “producer” certificate signed by the dear leader Ed Miliband.

You know, I was just about to suggest that next! Awesome idea

65. Matt Wardman

@Charlieman
>Mainly Oxfam? I suspect that there are some exceptional regional charity operators too. I have found bargains in them all so I bought them. And when they labelled a title that deserved a price, I’ve paid the Abe prime rate for the book. But they didn’t always follow the indie bookshop rule: knock a few bob off the other prices.

No – it’s Oxfam.No one else comes close for doing professional retail from a charity cost base.

They have 700 shops, and most sell books in one form or another. The business rates subsidy just to their 100 or so bookshops is well over £1m a year, and that is the smallest value of the 3 areas I mentioned.

Chat to some indie shops about the secondhand market.

Ditto Wedding Shops and Record Shops btw.

66. Albert Spangler

It’s amusing how irate people get when Sunny expresses an opinion or supports a campaign on something. “Stop Knife Crime?? Who are you to tell me what kind of cutlery is appropriate to commit crime! Typical nuliebore thought police nonsense. God I hate you. I hate you so much.” etc

I find it helpful when, considering other people’s motives for an action, you generally assume it’s for a greater good, and give the person the benefit of the doubt, even if you don’t agree with the methodology behind it or the way it’s communicated. It’s not necessarily a campaign I’d be particularly passionate about, but since the state of many high streets these days seem to almost totally consist of prefab identikit mass market bilge, I wish anyone all the best in trying to improve local centres. But then again, I have to remember that this is the internet…

Anyway, I think that there’s two things to be considered here really – how betting stores affect the individual and how they effect the community.

From what I understand, if something is more easily available, people are more likely to try it or use it. And there are fairly powerful compulsions which, if you’re not aware of them, can become addictive. The thrill and hope behind gambling doesn’t really require reasonable thought, and I would guess there are a good proportion of people who are negatively affected by gambling. So while I don’t think gambling should be banned, it ideally shouldn’t be readily accessible via commonly used public hubs, just because of how powerful marketing can be and how people might get drawn into something that seems harmless, but can ultimately lead to high levels of misery.

Obviously people can gamble online, however any negative effects would be confined to the individual’s room or wherever, and not in a social hub.

As for the collective effect, I think the pub analogy is quite a good one. What interests me is that successful pubs discourage unpleasant behaviour and have a vested interest in making sure that people are not overly affected by rowdy behaviour and such. I have no idea if the regulations applying to pubs have counterparts that apply to betting shops, however, a similar method may be useful in dealing with antisocial behaviour and the perceived negative effects they have in high street areas so at the very least they keep problems to a minimum and, at best, become pleasant and enjoyable.

The thing is, this is less of an issue of should it be allowed at all, and more about letting people in an area have more say over what high streets are like. I could imagine the same could apply to those suspiciously cheap chicken shops that tend to pop up on high streets, which I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit less of…

If you restrict high street bookies, the punters would just go online. Net gain: jobs lost.
I’m no fan of bookies, but nobody is forced to use them. If you want an effective nanny state, force long-term contraception on people whose kids are neglected because of their own selfishness and lack of willpower. That way the great British institution that is the welfare state can be effectively targeted at those who genuinely need it, and shielded from the sniping of the tabloids.

68. Anon E Mouse

What’s so “Liberal” about a site that refuses to print my comments despite them never being offensive or rude and usually just holding an opinion that you disagree with?

Why do Labour supporting blogs believe it is acceptable to alienate core voters like myself to pursue some whacky unpopular line just ensuring opposition for much much longer?

The sooner sites like this realise that Labour needs to be electable to be elected the better but as for the “Liberal” part of the name it is simply misleading and a once fine site becomes a group think meeting place.

Shame…

Firstly, if you have a problem with the morality of plebs frittering away their money, then ban the national lottery, that great state run gambling game. This was of course the action taken in the 19th century at the behest of that great libertarian William Wilberforce.

Secondly, compulsory lessons for all the plebs on deportment, ellocution amd general dress sense so that they don’t offend the eye of decent church (or mosque) going folk.

Thirdly, each council shall draw up a list of pemitted shops and businesses that will serve their own high street – one bakers (must be staffed by rosy cheeked, jolly lady), one butchers (ditto, ruddy faced man), one bookshop (decent books only) etc. etc.

representingthemambo,

1) This is a campaign, as I understand it, about democracy. About giving local people a bit of control over their communities. I think you would struggle to find many local communities that would support the proliferation of betting shops that has definitely occurred in some parts of the country. Most people don’t want them but are forced to put up with them.

Ah, that great feature of democracy: if most people don’t like something that is just cause to ban it. Hooray for democracy.

2) To suggest that a free market=freedom is naivete of truly epic proportions.

Excellent, then, that no-one in this thead has suggested that.

3) With a discussion such as this, there is one simple question that we should begin with: Who benefits? In whose interests is the proliferation of betting shops occurring?
Is it the ordinary punter? No. Is it the betting industry? Yes. They want more opportunities to make money. It really is as simple as that I’m afraid.

If the ordinary punter perceived no benefit he would not visit the shop.

Businessman wants to make more money? How terrible. Ban business!

71. Chaise Guevara

@ 66 Moist Von Lipwig

“I find it helpful when, considering other people’s motives for an action, you generally assume it’s for a greater good, and give the person the benefit of the doubt, even if you don’t agree with the methodology behind it or the way it’s communicated.”

I agree, but the problem with the way this idea is communicated above is that it’s low on the “let’s help people” and high on the “bloody betting shops messing up my nice affluent high street”. Which is bound to cause hostility, especially here, where it’s a bit of NIMBY small-c conservativism inexplicably posted on a liberal site

“Obviously people can gamble online, however any negative effects would be confined to the individual’s room or wherever, and not in a social hub.”

Where gambling is a problem – addiction and so on – do you really think that the negative effects are limited to the place where the gambling occurs?

“As for the collective effect, I think the pub analogy is quite a good one. What interests me is that successful pubs discourage unpleasant behaviour and have a vested interest in making sure that people are not overly affected by rowdy behaviour and such. I have no idea if the regulations applying to pubs have counterparts that apply to betting shops, however, a similar method may be useful in dealing with antisocial behaviour and the perceived negative effects they have in high street areas so at the very least they keep problems to a minimum and, at best, become pleasant and enjoyable. ”

To be honest, I’ve never noticed anti-social behaviour at betting shops – unlike pubs. Nor am I sure why they’d cause any, beyond the odd person yelling when they get chucked out. All we’ve got to go on here is Rowenna’s claim – and we know she’s hardly unbiased about bookies to begin with. Judging by the rest of the article, I can’t help wondering if she feels this way just because bookies are frequented by people who really aren’t Rowenna’s sort of people.

“The thing is, this is less of an issue of should it be allowed at all, and more about letting people in an area have more say over what high streets are like. I could imagine the same could apply to those suspiciously cheap chicken shops that tend to pop up on high streets, which I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit less of…”

Again, if I want to eat crappy fried chicken, I will, thank you very much, and I don’t see why I should be prevented from doing so just because Krunchy Fried Chicken offends your eyes.

As for people in an area having a say… I think this can be valid in terms of noise or actual pollution, and maybe if an area is being ruined by venues serving people who don’t actually live in the area and therefore don’t have to suffer the downsides. But I reckon your bookies and chicken places are mainly visited by locals. If they get shut down, that means those locals’ preferences are being deprioritised in favour either of the local council (probably elected for their party affiliations rather than their high-street preferences) or a noisy group of local NIMBYs (who are probably fewer than the number of people who actually use the outlets). I don’t see this as particularly fair or representative.

“I agree, but the problem with the way this idea is communicated above is that it’s low on the “let’s help people” and high on the “bloody betting shops messing up my nice affluent high street”.”

Would I be correct in guessing that you have never been to ‘nice, affluent’ Peckham High Street?

70 uk liberty

• “Ah, that great feature of democracy: if most people don’t like something that is just cause to ban it. Hooray for democracy.”

No one is advocating that. But then you already knew that.

• “Excellent, then, that no-one in this thead has suggested that.”

See comment 31

• “If the ordinary punter perceived no benefit he would not visit the shop. Businessman wants to make more money? How terrible. Ban business!”

Well it all depends what they are making money doing or selling, doesn’t it? Unless we want a free for all with people making money from anything and everything? Is that ‘liberty’?

Interesting that you didn’t respond to my fourth point. I take it there wasn’t a glib cliche you could trot out to try and misrepresent my argument in response.

74. Chaise Guevara

@ 72 don

“Would I be correct in guessing that you have never been to ‘nice, affluent’ Peckham High Street?”

Niceness and affluence are relative, and I’m talking about the general thrust of the OP. It reads as if Sunny’s mainly concerned about them bringing down the tone of the local area. Even if you think Peckham is poor and skanky, they’re obviously worried that bookies make it look MORE poor and skanky. It’s still snobbery.

75. Chaise Guevara

@ 73 representingthemambo

“Well it all depends what they are making money doing or selling, doesn’t it?”

Sure. But what they’re making money from here is facilitating people’s personal choice to gamble. What’s wrong with that?

On my last count last year, in Sutton high street there were seven mobile phone shops, approximately twice the number of betting shops. Is this too many? Has anyone checked on the number of estate agents in their local high street?

“Estate agents and politicians among least trusted professions”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/5085369/Estate-agents-and-politicians-among-least-trusted-professions.html

77. Robin Levett

Unlikely as it may seem, Sunny does have a point here.

Rowenna is wrong to claim that there are “…opening up a bookies is the same as opening up a job centre or an insurance company. No extra permission needed”

Bookies do require licences. They also require planning permission.

What Rowenna could accurately say is that the licensing legislation (i) creates a presumption that a licence will be granted unless one of the specified grounds exists and (ii) does not include saturation as a ground of refusal of a licence.

Saturation can be a ground of refusal of planning permission, provided the correct planning policies are in place. Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily help. Permission isn’t required to change use within a use class; and bettign shops share a use class with “Use for the provision of — (a) financial services, or
(b) professional services (other than health or medical services), or (c) any other services (including use as a betting office) which it is appropriate to provide in a shopping area”

So your local GP can be replaced by a betting shop without needing planning permission.

One point of fact, though; is it true that betting shops attract anti-social behaviour, or does the fact that betting shops usually have far more surveillance and security, and are more prepared to act on such behaviour, than the average high street shop mean that anti-social behaviour is more visible around betting shops than elsewhere, creating a perception of a problem?

78. Albert Spangler

@ 71 “I agree, but the problem with the way this idea is communicated above is that it’s low on the “let’s help people” and high on the “bloody betting shops messing up my nice affluent high street”. Which is bound to cause hostility, especially here, where it’s a bit of NIMBY small-c conservativism inexplicably posted on a liberal site”

Hmm… that’s true, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with letting people have their say on how their highstreets serve them. I do think there is a point to be made that the overriding social effects of having a betting shop somewhere are fairly minimal compared to places like pubs. I only really speak from my own experiences of some places which tend to have crowds of sullen looking people who look like they suffer from ASBO’s, so I tend to avoid them. Even then it’s never really been much of an issue for me, so it could well be a perception issues rather than, well, an actual one.

“Where gambling is a problem – addiction and so on – do you really think that the negative effects are limited to the place where the gambling occurs?”

Oh no, and there should always be help available to help people who find it a problem. I don’t think you should (or even could) stop it if you wanted to, but there should be an effort to minimise the damage, like (throwing some random crap ideas out there) a credit check for people who want to spend above a certain amount, a maximum spend limit for a day, something like that. I’m just saying that, like with cancer from smoking, it will have a horrible affect on that person and their freind’s/family’s, online gambling not necessarily count as a social problem, just an individual one.

“To be honest, I’ve never noticed anti-social behaviour at betting shops – unlike pubs. Nor am I sure why they’d cause any, beyond the odd person yelling when they get chucked out. All we’ve got to go on here is Rowenna’s claim – and we know she’s hardly unbiased about bookies to begin with. I will, thank you very much, and I don’t see why I should be prevented from doing so just because Krunchy Fried Chicken offends your eyes.”

Sort of combining what you say because they’re similar points (if that’s okay), I’m not at all talking or agreeing that we should blanket ban those things because they’re fully of smell poor people, although I do get the feeling that that’s a part of the argument and I’m glad you’re point it out. I will say that having lived in some fairly poor areas, when the main shopping area is dominated by fast food chicken places and betting shops, they tend not to be areas people want to live in. Obviously they represent the socioeconomic makup of an area, but I think that large collections of them can push away other types of business and you end up with fairly depressing high streets which only poorer people tend to frequent and you end up with a kind of segregation via brownian motion. I have no idea how to solve this issue, but I feel that allowing people to make a small effort to make worse areas better couldn’t harm, although that leads to your next point-

“…noisy group of local NIMBYs (who are probably fewer than the number of people who actually use the outlets). I don’t see this as particularly fair or representative.”

To be honest, this is an issue with politics generally, and is very difficult to get around. Maybe you could get around this by only allowing the local bigmouths to get support via petitions, so that you don’t end up with a minority imposing their wills on the majority in an area?

“So your local GP can be replaced by a betting shop without needing planning permission.”

Is that a prospective social gain? The local betting shop down the road is almost next door to the neighbourhood medical centre from which my GP operates.

As I was getting off the bus after shopping in the evening late autumn last year complete with shopping trolley, a young woman, who was rushing by paused to ask: Where’s William Hill?

I dunno, I replied, I’ve never met him. Only later did it occur that she was referring to the bookmakers down the road and probably wanted to get there before it closed. Which only goes to show that I don’t know much about bookmakers. Was there a GCSE in bookmaking axed in the recent purging of vocational GCSEs? If so, that’s a pity because it’s looking like there are growing job opportunites in the profession.

80. Chaise Guevara

@ 78 Albert

“Hmm… that’s true, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with letting people have their say on how their highstreets serve them.”

Me neither – but this is more to do with people trying to have a say on their high streets not serving other people, isn’t it? Say you’ve got an area where, of those who give a damn, half of the people like bookies and half think they bring the tone down. Is the solution to rule in favour of the latter? Couldn’t the latter help to bring the tone back up by supporting delis, wine bars, fascinating little restaurants where they know you? (I’ve got Pratchett quotes in my head now, and it’s your fault!)

“I’m just saying that, like with cancer from smoking, it will have a horrible affect on that person and their freind’s/family’s, online gambling not necessarily count as a social problem, just an individual one.”

It’s less of a social problem than, say, rowdy drinking. But there are still social issues – locally, if problem gamblers turn to theft to support the habit, and nationally, if they end up being kicked out by their family and needing benefits.

“I feel that allowing people to make a small effort to make worse areas better couldn’t harm”

[I know I cut a lot of what you said here, but I agreed with it overall]

Generally, people making an effort to improve an area is a good thing, when than means a Make Our Town Pretty campaign, concerted effort to improve local services, and so on. My issue is when it’s done at the expense of groups who are probably seen as part of the problem. I suspect that a lot of people dislike bookies because they don’t like the people who frequent them. Or that they wouldn’t care about bookies if they didn’t bring the tone down, but then they only bring the tone down because people make judgements based on them in the first place… punishing the bookies and their patrons just seems to be pandering to prejudice to me.

“To be honest, this is an issue with politics generally, and is very difficult to get around. Maybe you could get around this by only allowing the local bigmouths to get support via petitions, so that you don’t end up with a minority imposing their wills on the majority in an area?”

You’re right, it’s tricky. Petitions don’t solve everything – you wouldn’t reasonably expect even a popular campaign to get signatures off of half the local residents, and they can be forged easily enough anyway – but I think a sensible council would require the local bunch of mouthy NIMBYs to gather some evidence that their ideas were popular, rather than just assuming that they represent local feeling.

This seems to be boiling down to the two definitions of liberalism again:

On one side those who believe that if people want to do something without harming others, they should be allowed;

On the other side, those who want to ensure others do no harm to themselves.

The two very divergent strands tell you a lot about perceptions of liberalism (and by the second definition Rowena and Sunny are certainly liberal), but to be honest not much about whether betting shops are good or not.

Everyone here is dodging the very practical issue of what mechanism is to be used to control the number of betting shops: local plebiscites or local councillors voting on applications to open new shops?

My warning is that controlling the variety of shops is open to abuse – a pizza parlour or other fast food outlet etc is unlikely to welcome the prospect of a competitor opening near by.

83. Chaise Guevara

@ 81

“The two very divergent strands tell you a lot about perceptions of liberalism”

To be honest, I think your second form of liberalism would be better called “conservatism”, “authoritarianism” or possibly “the polar opposite of anything that could remotely be called liberalism”.

Chaise,

Unfortunately it is the meaning in the title of this site (as I understand it), and is based on the US evolution of the term, where the liberals are often as illiberal as their conservative rivals, but in a much more ‘progressive’ manner.

What you are espousing is classical liberalism, whereas the viewpoint of Rowena and Sunny seems to be something else, but still has identifiable roots in the liberal tradition. Personally, I’m with you every time on this, but our viewpoint is not able to claim exclusive use of the historical label liberal, alas.

Is it ironic-ish there is an advert for PKR at the top of this page?

Anyway, I’ve never noticed any antisocial behavior outside my local Ladbrokes (unless you count smoking). Is there any real evidence that “they are a source of anti social behaviour and recorded violence”. I mean obviously by their nature you’d expect more trouble from a betting shop, than a card shop, or a florist, but how much more?

Zebura: “Is there any real evidence that ‘they are a source of anti social behaviour and recorded violence’ ?”

On the evidence, there’s probably a stronger case for banning the Catholic church.

87. Chaise Guevara

@ 84 Watchman

Yeah, agreed. I don’t want to get into arguments with others about whether they’re a “proper” liberal (rows about who defines the best categories are rarely enlightening), but it’s annoying that the word has stretched so far that it could now cover pretty much anything. I guess that’s what happens when descriptive terms become names for sides – and I’ve likewise heard views described as “conservative” that are anything but.

It would be interesting to hear people’s actual feelings about being in betting shops, and whether they even go in them or not. I rarely put on bets, but I often pop into betting shops just for a minute to take in the scene and the feel of the place – or use the toilet. If you feel an aversion to even walking inside the door, that could say a lot about a person’s prejudices maybe. I went inside my nearest bookie just this morning because of this thread.
The clientele is white working class and Chinese men.
And there was interaction, where most of the time the Chinese population keep themselves pretty much to themselves. (This is in a Loyalist part of Belfast).
So that is a space for there to be some cross community interaction – which is obviously good.

Spending five minutes in your local bookies gives you a good snapshot of local social issues.
They are particularly interesting in the most multicultural and diverse areas.
I was in one in Hackey a few weeks back which made me kind of go ”wow” as there was a lot going on in there and a lot of people’s stories you could only guess at. And another in Deptford market which was like that also.
If you have no clue about these places because you never go in them, you can’t say that you really know a place.

Having three of them in the miserable parade of shops that serves the New Addington estate in Croydon is surely a couple too many though.

@88 damon: “Having three of them in the miserable parade of shops that serves the New Addington estate in Croydon is surely a couple too many though.”

Depending on regular travel patterns, there is much to be said for maintaining local competition – and there is the very practical issue of the mechanics of controlling the variety of shops.

As posted @76, on my last count last year, there were seven mobile phone shops on Sutton high street, approximately twice the number of betting shops. Is that too many?

No one seems to worry unduly about the proliferating numbers of local massage parlours and escort agencies promoted on web sites. Why is that?

My local in Hexham is strictly a belly-to-the bar racing pub. The telly is only ever on for the races and across the alley is a small, old-style bookies. How could anyone object to that? Part of life. There is also a larger Ladbrokes near the bus station. No-one objects.

However, last year the last off-licence of three closed down, unable to compete with Tesco. This was a rather up-market wine merchants in a prime spot in the market square. There was a lot of local objection when it was leased to BetFred bookies, mainly because it was felt that it would discourage the ‘right’ sort of tenants from taking up neighbouring properties, that it was sending the area down market. A purely commercial objection from some, aesthetic from others but nobody was moralising about gambling. After all, the previous business sold alcohol and I would suspect that booze per se is probably more likely to lead to violence, disorder and other social ills. I am certain the objections would have been at least as strong if the replacement had been an offie named ‘Cheap Booze ‘n’ Tabs’.

High streets are struggling hard and when more traditional businesses are replaced by bookies, pay day loan companies or cash for gold many traders regard them as they would Japanese Bindweed in the garden. I think that’s a legitimate point.

Don.
What other businesses think is really of no more relevance than what the local puritan councillor thinks, if that’s the way the market is going they will just have to live with it. Japanese Knotweed is an imported pest that strangles other growth, bookies are our own homegrown organic vice and, as others have pointed out, they’re strangling nothing.

On the subject of local people having a say in the sort of businesses that are allowed in their area, this is just the usual leftist code for activists starting a campaign and getting their preferred policy adopted under the guise of local democracy, lap dancing clubs are the obvious example here, you’ll be telling us that community leaders are speaking for the community next.

Closing down massage parlours and escort agencies is an attack on UK jobs, especially jobs for young women.

Time to let the British high street die

By Harjeet Johal

The British high street has “national treasure” status. The concept of local shops serving local people is held dear, fiercely defended by politicians and Mary Portas, the celebrity retail consultant who last year told the government to stage a clampdown on out-of-town developments in order to rescue the high street. But beyond the overinflated emotional argument, there is little reason for it still to exist. It is time for the local high street to die.

The case for its death is simple: people no longer shop there. Yesterday, the annual Shop Vacancy Report showed that many northern cities and towns, such as Nottingham and Stockport, have a higher proportion of empty shops than Athens. I ran a discount clothing retail chain, and over the past 10 years I have seen consumer demand go beyond what the local high street can offer. Geographic convenience is now low down on the list of consumer priorities.

Price, value and special offers are at the fore of the shopper’s mind, increasingly so in worsening economic times. This combination can only be provided by large format retailers in central locations. The consumer has shifted, en masse, to shopping centres, major high streets and retail parks where international retailers with efficient sourcing and costs do battle with each other to offer the consumer ever-increasing value. And this is the way it should be. The general consumer cares little for heritage or for the sentimental argument. If it is cheaper, they will buy it, and they are right to.

Government planners acknowledge serious companies are staying away from local high streets. The survival plan is centred on “reinventing” the high street with local trades and crafts. But to suggest that artisan bakeries and candle makers can keep alive high streets in Dewsbury or Alfreton demonstrates not only arrogance, but also a total ignorance of the reality of Britain. Before they draw up “mood boards” for a regenerated high street, officials should first spend a week in the suburbs of Barnsley, Southend and Nottingham. They will soon abandon plans to try and reproduce Primrose Hill throughout the rest of Britain.

British shoppers put prices and value first. Dentists, restaurants and coffee shops can offer an element of reprieve to the local high street. But Pizza Express and Starbucks are not argument enough for survival. Retail drives the British economy, not pizza or social interaction. A happy byproduct of the high street was occasionally bumping into a friend, but things change – we can organise catch-ups on Facebook. The next generation will not consider a jolly chat on a rain-lashed street to be an important or even enjoyable part of their shopping routine.

It is bizarre to assume that not only can we change consumer behaviour, but that we are right to. The government, like retailers, must respond to the changing patterns of consumption, not dictate them. The international precedent for the new retail landscape bodes well. Most of American retail is mall based and focused on a mass offer to the mass consumer. This is also the dominant format in emerging economies. I spent two years working in India and witnessed a country create an entirely new mall-based retail sector out of the dust of traders with carts. We are moving this way and – like the consumer – we must embrace it.

The death of high streets does not mean the death of opportunity or choice. The new Westfield centre in Stratford, east London, has independent retailers alongside the giants, and they are thriving due to the customer flow. If you want an ox tongue sandwich on pumpernickel bread, you can find it there. Strip lighting and car parks do not mean you must just eat Cornish pasties and drink cola.

In time, of course, the majority of retail will be online, and we must embrace that too. Change happens; my family has witnessed that change having started as market traders in the 1950s and then moved into manufacturing, and later national retailing. I know that the move away from local high streets is just a natural next step. The evolution of retail must continue unmolested by policy, emotion or concerns for “national character”. As long as people are spending, should we care where or how they are doing it?

There is a romantic notion that Britain’s heart lies in its local high streets, but like most romances, it exists heavier in the mind of one lover than the other. The consumer has rejected its high street paramour. It is time to close down, board up and move on, away from this flawed concept of retail and this long-dead idea of Britain. ( Mr Johal also meant to say but he forgot that LC should stop interfering with the retailers who do move in. )

The writer is a business commentator and former managing director of the retail chain Clothing Direct

Richard W: “The case for its death is simple: people no longer shop there. ”

That’s not true everywhere. Around where I live on the periphery of south London, high streets are busy although the proliferation of charity shops shows that there are too many shops. Croydon and Kingston have substantial and busy central shopping areas. Generalisations can be misleading.

One significant indicator is that Tesco and Sainsbury have been investing in smaller convenience stores on high streets and local shopping centres in addition to their large out-of-town superstores with lots of parking space. One reason why London is different is because of the larger model split for public transport, which is relatively good, because of the costs and problems of keeping a car in London with its relatively high residential densities.

95. Chaise Guevara

Fucking hell, Richard, that was one of the most convincing things I’ve read in recent times.

96. Chaise Guevara

@ 94 Bob B

Tesco and Sainsbury’s both maintain rubbish local “urban” outlets near me, too. That’s because Tesco is trying to grab some market share off the Sainsbury’s up the road, and vice versa. They’re also getting some market share off of the local shops, of course, but I don’t think they’re doing it because of the importance of the high street. They’re doing it to get saturation.

Not that long ago, your local shop kept all its goods behind the counter: you’d queue up to tell the shopkeeper what you wanted to buy. Aside from special exceptions, like jewellers, that’s dead. Who’s to say the high street isn’t? If it’s dead, let it die.

”She has a point, and I support the campaign – not just because I abhor betting shops.”

That line was in the opening post. Abhors betting shops. Why? Wrong kind of people?
No Guardian readers, but plenty of Sun and Daily Star people?

Another place that some people hate are the Wetherspoons pubs where you get the same people who spend time in the betting shop. The poorer working class.

In some places in London you have a pretty clear class seperation, with different people fequenting different kinds of establishments all in the same vicinity of each other.
Balham is a good place to see this. You have all the wine bars and cafes for the young professionals, and then there’s ”The Moon Under Water” Wetherspoon’s pub, which the liberal white wine bar people, and those IT workers who play softball on the common in the summer time after work, wouldn’t dream of going inside. Because that’s where the people who drink in the day and look for cheap beer and pub food go.
And the white van men also go to in the early evening after work.

So it is a prejudice against the people who frequent the betting shops too I think.

@96: “Who’s to say the high street isn’t? If it’s dead, let it die.”

High streets and local shopping centres are certainly changing. The proliferation of charity shops shows that there are too many shops. But as I keep saying, large local shopping centres around where I live like Croydon and Kingston are full of bustle. Tooting Broadway, with its many ethnic convenience shops and restaurants, is lively till quite late at night whereas other high streets are dead after 6pm. Generalisations are unreliable. London is different for solid, substantive reasons relately to transport modes, relatively higher economic growth than other regions, better LEAs on average and ethnic mix – 40 pc of London residents were born abroad.

99. Chaise Guevara

@ 98 Bob B

“Generalisations are unreliable”

You’re right – I misread you, apologies. The trend is towards malls, out-of-town retail parks and online shopping, but that doesn’t mean that every high street is dying. My local high street is going ok, although we’ve seen a lot of places go out of business lately, especially new ventures.

Of topical relevance here from the BBC website: The rise and fall of lap dancing
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16869029

Lap dancing clubs were starting to fill those vacant slots on high street but local councils are clamping down. A fascinating insight is that one market study reported that a quarter of the performers were graduates, which suggests an intelligent response to the problems that some graduates have in finding attractive, well-paid work. From web surfing, what is already happening is that websites for massage parlours and escort agencies are proliferating. Pushed out of the high streets, the sex industry is adapting to online marketing. Will that make us more moral and offer better protection for the workers? I doubt it.

About 30 years ago I had business reasons to visit Copenhagen – it surprised me to see how many high-profile, blatant sex shops there were in the central shopping district. Evidently, the Danes weren’t concerned.

Never mind the clamp down on lap dancing clubs and sex shops on high streets, I’ve still not learned from here why I should be really concerned about the numbers of betting shops but not the numbers of mobile phone shops and estate agents or pubs, cafes and restaurants.

101. Chaise Guevara

@ Bob B

“I’ve still not learned from here why I should be really concerned about the numbers of betting shops but not the numbers of mobile phone shops and estate agents or pubs, cafes and restaurants.”

I’ve narrowed this down to two possibilities:

1) “Betting is bad”

2) “I don’t like having to look at betting shops”

Chaise,

Be fair. There’s a third – some people are more caring than discriminatory.

3. It is the ‘liberal’ thing to do to protect people from spending their money on gambling (despite the fact they will anyway in a less regulated environment…).

Please note, I did not say these people were very smart.

103. Chaise Guevara

@ 102 Watchman

I was including that under the umbrella of “betting is bad”. But you’re right, it’s not fair to conflate “betting is bad” as a deontological position with the idea that it’s right to save people from themselves.

Bob B – lap dancing clubs are totally off topic really.
Apart from being places you can go on a high street (maybe) they have nothing in common. I’m no prude, but lap dancing clubs (from what I know of them) are completely vulgar. And that’s mainly because of how much they cost to get into and their door poicy with bouncers guarding the doors.

Betting shops are something else entirely, and I’m more interested in why some people would really ”abhor” them. If you abhor them, it’s not just the gambling you have a problem with I think.

My mum hates it that her local post office in a suburban parade closed down and became a Corals bookmakers, and now attracts the people from the council estate at the top of the road, down to her posher end of semi-detatched houses.
Some of the local resident’s association also didn’t like the lawnmower shop (which was there for decades) being turned into a greasy kebab shop, which again is mainly for the estate people, who then throw all the kebab rubbish in the front gardens of the semis as they walk home. There was actually a petition out against it.
It also smells the area out, with the fat smell wafting over people’s back gardens sometimes.

Damon: “I’m no prude, but lap dancing clubs (from what I know of them) are completely vulgar.”

As the French say: chacun a son gout. By the BBC report of a market study of lap dancing clubs, a quarter of performers were graduates, which seems to be a variation on the trend pioneered by Belle de Jour to fund her post-graduate studies by working for an escort agency. With the rise in uni tuition fees, I expect we’ll see a lot more of that.

I tend to avoid pubs, especially pubs showing football matches on large screens, but I’m not suggesting pubs should be closed down because I don’t find them congenial. In fact, the market seems to be performing an excellent job of closing pubs – reportedly at the rate of two a day in Britain. The most likely explanation for the closures is because of rising pub prices compared with the steep discounts that supermarkets offer on alcohol for boozing at home and at social gatherings.

The British Board of Film Censors used to be very keen about flexing the scissors but seems to have largely given up except in instances of extreme violence, rightly so IMO. I’m still unconvinced about why councils need to take harsh lines with betting shops and lap dancing clubs on high streets but not with mobile phone shops and estate agents, which really tend to deaden high streets. Who wants to go to a high street after 6pm to look in the windows of mobile phone shops and estate agents? Should councils close those down to liven up high streets?

The central shopping district of Copenhagen seemed to be doing OK for all the number of sex shops.

Btw we don’t seem to be clear yet on the administrative mechanics for councils to control the variety of shops on high streets. Is it to be local plebiscites or the council voting on every application to open a new shop?

106. Abdul Abulbul Emir

Mrs A says;

The bookies around here are empty Abdul.

That’s how bad things are. Once they thronged with happy Chinese waiters but now even they are gone.

It’s got to be bad, really bad….


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Paul Perrin

    RT @sunny_hundal : …supporting this campaign to restrict…betting shops… http://t.co/Jw3wkxKA << What about TV ads for online betting?

  2. Will

    How liberal. RT @sunny_hundal: Am supporting this campaign to restrict the number of betting shops in the high streets. http://t.co/Fp34l9uP

  3. Omolade

    RT @sunny_hundal: Am supporting this campaign to restrict the number of betting shops in the high streets. http://t.co/WwThX7uM

  4. James Graham

    Am supporting this campaign to restrict the number of betting shops in the high streets. http://t.co/hZdhh9b6

  5. Local Works

    Am supporting this campaign to restrict the number of betting shops in the high streets. http://t.co/hZdhh9b6

  6. Phillip

    Letting betting shops proliferate is part of a wider problem – http://t.co/F88xPZlC Courtesy of @libcon & @Sunny_Hundal #vice #Gambling #UK

  7. RedStarHuntersBar

    Fkn speechless RT @sunny_hundal: Am supporting this campaignto restrict the number of betting shops in the highstreets http://t.co/AE12iaQS

  8. Cllr Timothy Godfrey

    Am supporting this campaign to restrict the number of betting shops in the high streets. http://t.co/hZdhh9b6

  9. Murray Rothbard

    Hilarious seeing @sunny_hundal getting twatted in comments for "I know better than the unwashed" modern socialism 🙂 http://t.co/ZAPBmsSf

  10. Reg Kemp

    Am supporting this campaign to restrict the number of betting shops in the high streets. http://t.co/hZdhh9b6

  11. i-volunteer.org

    Am supporting this campaign to restrict the number of betting shops in the high streets. http://t.co/hZdhh9b6

  12. No Offence!

    Am supporting this campaign to restrict the number of betting shops in the high streets. http://t.co/hZdhh9b6

  13. Meg Howarth

    Am supporting this campaign to restrict the number of betting shops in the high streets. http://t.co/hZdhh9b6

  14. Phillippa T-J

    Am supporting this campaign to restrict the number of betting shops in the high streets. http://t.co/hZdhh9b6

  15. Joseph Rowntree Fdn.

    Letting betting shops proliferate is part of a wider problem http://t.co/NPqeUPmf via @libcon

  16. neil lambert

    Letting betting shops proliferate is part of a wider problem http://t.co/NPqeUPmf via @libcon

  17. Richard C Renson

    Letting betting shops proliferate is part of a wider problem http://t.co/NPqeUPmf via @libcon

  18. John Bailey

    Letting betting shops proliferate is part of a wider problem http://t.co/NPqeUPmf via @libcon

  19. The Dragon Fairy

    Letting betting shops proliferate is part of a wider problem http://t.co/NPqeUPmf via @libcon

  20. Julian L Hawksworth

    Letting betting shops proliferate is part of a wider problem http://t.co/NPqeUPmf via @libcon

  21. Andrew Martin

    Am supporting this campaign to restrict the number of betting shops in the high streets. http://t.co/hZdhh9b6

  22. Keith Colley

    Letting betting shops proliferate is part of a wider problem http://t.co/NPqeUPmf via @libcon

  23. A campaign against the proliferation of betting shops-finally « Representing the Mambo

    […] and depressingly, a myopic and ill-informed response followed the announcement. This piece on Liberal Conspiracy generated an enormous amount of mouth-frothing and criticism in the comments section that followed […]

  24. Cllr Rowenna Davis » Blog Archive » High Streets First: campaign update one week in

    […] excellent local press coverage in the Southwark News and the credible blogs Left Foot Forward, Liberal Conspiracy and Political Scrapbook all covered […]

  25. Cllr Rowenna Davis » Blog Archive » Can you believe the press coverage?

    […] Liberal Conspiracy: Letting Betting Shops proliferate is part of a Wider Problem […]





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