‘We already have 7 gambling shops in 500 meters of London Underground stop’ – East London residents outraged after Tower Hamlets approve adult gaming centre

A gaming centre has been given the go-ahead in East London after the local council voted to grant it a license to operate.

Tower Hamlets licensing Sub-Committee has given permission for Palace Amusements to run in Bethnal Green Road. Objections poured in against the proposal, with residents worried about the number of gambling shops already operating in the immediate area. One resident said: “My address is less than 150 metres from where the gambling centre is planned (450 Bethnal Green Rd).

“We already have 7 gambling centres in the 500 metres of Bethnal GreenRd that go from the Bethnal Green Tube station to Pollard Row. I’d argue we need to reduce that number, and redirect the usage of those spaces towards culturally/socially meaningful use.The area has a long-standing antisocial behaviour problem. Drug abuse is rampant in the area, and another gambling centre isn’t going to improve that.

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The new gaming centre will replace the Santander pictured. It has been met with some opposition

They continued: “One of the priorities for the Mayor of Tower Hamlets and his administration is to tackle poverty and its impacts. The presence of gambling centres in a given area correlates with poverty, so I’d be curious to hear how the granting of the licence would fit within said priority.”

Another added: “I was overjoyed in 2019 when the Coral at 397-399 Bethnal Green Road closed and was replaced by an Oxfam. So, to see a bank replaced by a betting shop seems like a step back for the area. I’ve lived on for over 7 years now, and the area has a long-standing ASB problem, with drug use rampant in the nearby Weavers Field and Corfield St park.

Bethnal Green is looking like it'll be getting a new 24-hour gaming centre

Bethnal Green is looking like it’ll be getting a new 24-hour gaming centre

“Another gambling shop isn’t going to do anything to improve that, either. I’ve no doubt the council is strapped for cash after a decade of cuts from the central government, but there has to be a better way to solve the problem than this. On the other hand, if you have evidence that shows that a gambling licence for these premises would provide a benefit, I’d love to see it.”

Councillor Kevin Brady made a number of objections as to why the license shouldn’t be granted. He addressed issues such as anti-social behaviour in the area which could increase and expressed concern for vulnerable people in the area. He said: “Vulnerable people were, and would include people who would gamble beyond their means or people who may not be able to make informed or balanced decisions about their gambling.”

He also made reference to the number of schools in the area. He was worried that curious schoolchildren could be enticed by the prospect of gambling if they saw family members using the shop. The councillor concluded that there wasn’t any need for another gambling shop in the area that already has many and in an area that already experiences “public nuisance and crime and disorder”.

Despite objections, the application was approved. The licensing sub-committee took a number of factors into account when making the decision. The proposals were submitted by East Kent Leasing who run ten other similar venues around London and were noted to have an “excellent track record” for how they handled them.

The close proximity of several schools to the gaming centre was a concern for residents and Councillor Brady

The close proximity of several schools to the gaming centre was a concern for residents and Councillor Brady

The license was granted as long as the premises followed certain conditions. The conditions ranged from ensuring a comprehensive CCTV system was in place, a magnetic locking device to be installed on the main entrance/exit door, between the hours of 10pm and 4am entrance will only be allowed via a buzzer and any gambling taking place shall not be visible from outside. The license came with 12 additional conditions that were agreed upon between East Kent Leasing and the Sub-Committee.

East Kent Leasing said that their shops are different to gambling shops in that a staff member is regularly on the floor and there are no TVs or communal seating. They also said the numbers inside the shops are usually small so the risk of crime and disorder is small. They also said the fact that they submitted additional conditions to abide by should be noted.

The Licensing Sub-Committee concluded that: “Notwithstanding the references in the representations to the number of gambling premises in the area, none of the representations evidenced any issues arising in connection with any of those premises. That being so, there was no basis on which the Sub-Committee could reasonably conclude that these premises would give rise to any problems.

“Having considered the options available to it, the Sub-Committee decided to grant the application as sought and with the imposition of the additional conditions volunteered by the applicant and the additional conditions discussed during the course of the hearing.” The decision was unanimous.

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