Betting shops in Uxbridge Road and Cllr Greg Smith
THE spread of betting shops in Hammersmith and Fulham looks set to continue after the deputy leader of the council gave them his backing.
There have been growing calls for the council to regulate the number of gambling outlets following the approval of the 41st shop in the borough, a Ladbrokes in Uxbridge Road, last month.
It was the firm’s second branch in Shepherd’s Bush and the eighth betting shop in a half-mile stretch of the street. Some residents say the shops are a magnet for crime, anti-social behaviour, prey on the socially disadvantaged and homogenise high streets, while Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter has also added his voice to the debate, arguing expansion should be stopped.
But deputy council leader Greg Smith denied the shops attract problems and praised the big firms like Ladbrokes, Coral and William Hill for filling empty units and creating jobs.
In a Twitter exchange with Chronicle reporter Adam Courtney over residents’ concerns, he said there was little evidence the outlets caused social problems - and dismissed worries over the number of shops.
In one Tweet, he wrote: “Our high streets are not ‘full’ of bookies and there is no evidence of significant crime/asb issues linked to betting shops,” before adding, “The market dictates when somewhere is ‘full’”.
Asked whether the council should be doing more to attract a mix of shops and businesses to areas such as Uxbridge Road, he said: “I advocate the free market - and support firms taking over empty units, employing people and keeping high streets alive.”
He added: “You can't force businesses to set up - we should be pleased employers are opening up in empty units. I want all empty units to be let/sold to grow the economy and employ people.
“I'd love to see all sorts of shops and businesses - but most of all, I want to see the units taken and employing people.”
Adding further praise on the industry, he said: “(They) provide clean/safe environment to do business in - we pay for extra cops in W12 and have improved street cleaning.
“On addiction, I am told around 0.7 to 0.9 per cent of gamblers have some sort of a problem - which the industry funds GamCare to help. The gambling industry is already massively regulated!”
Ladbrokes says it protects vulnerable gamblers and uses CCTV, keeps incident log books and participates in proof-of-age schemes to drive down crime.
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