27 Aug 2012

East End is “saturated” with bookie shops, says local MSP


Local Member of the Scottish Parliament, John Mason, has launched a campaign to tackle the increased number of betting shops that have saturated the East End.  The Shettleston MSP thinks there are too many bookies in poorer areas and that gambling companies are deliberately targeting vulnerable people by placing betting shops next to pubs, bank machines and post offices.

Mr Mason cited local problems, for example in Baillieston Main Street, where bookies are literally side-by-side and has called for rules to be considered to limit numbers.  The MSP’s calls comes after Labour deputy leader, Harriet Harman MP, said changes that liberalised gambling laws were a “mistake”.  A recent channel four documentary suggested that prosperous areas have around five bookies for every 100,000 people, while poorer areas have about 12.  

Mr Mason’s East End constituency, which is only six miles in size and has a population of just 70,000 people, has more than 30 large betting shops.  In contrast, West Aberdeenshire, Scotland’s most affluent constituency – with a similar population – has just 5 betting shops.

Commenting, the SNP’s John Mason said:

“Harriet Harman is right – Westminster did make a major mistake and simply allowed the number of betting shops on our streets to spiral totally out of control but now we need to move on and tackle this.

 “I have tabled a parliamentary motion in the hope that MSPs will support a debate, which will hopefully help highlight the problem.

 “There can be no doubt that gambling, just like alcohol, is easy to get addicted to and it has wrecked many families and pushed a lot of people into debt.  Obviously there are a lot of good organisations out there, like Gamblers Anonymous, who help people get back on track but we do need to do more to stop people falling into that rut in the first place.  It’s on that basis that I’d like the UK Government to reconsider the legislation and carry out a review.

 “My main concern is that less well-off areas, like the East End – and the people living here – are being targeted by betting companies who open up bookies next to pubs, post offices and ATM machines and see them as an easy hit.

 “There is another issue amongst all of this and that concerns the National Lottery.  I am concerned that, whilst East Enders are encouraged to pour a fortune into buying National Lottery tickets and scratch cards, local groups aren’t getting quite as much of the cash back by way of grants.

 “Gambling is real problem here and, with over twenty bookies shops in my own constituency – which is actually only six miles in length – there is a clear case for this to be discussed, reviewed and acted upon.”