On Thursday Emma highlighted the increasing levels of violence against staff in betting shops, and called on the Government to consider new laws requiring these shops to install protective screens to protect workers.
Speaking at Culture, Media and Sport Questions, Emma said: “Violent attacks on betting shop workers are on the rise and single-staffing policies mean that many have minimal protection from harm. Yet in many shops operators have not installed protective screens for their staff until after an incident has occurred. Will the Minister look at requiring all betting shops to install screens for the safety and benefit of the staff?”
The Minister, Helen Grant MP, said that existing powers were enough: “Local authorities that are concerned about any betting shop can use their licensing conditions, which were used very successfully by Newham when it had concerns about crime, antisocial behaviour and under-age gambling. With regard to the number of staff in shops, licensing conditions can again be used.”
But with rising numbers of violent incidents taking place in betting shops around the country, the need for further action is becoming more and more obvious. Staff have reported that Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) which allow players to stake as much as £100 every 20 seconds have led to an increase in problem gambling, vandalism of machines and threats against staff.
Labour has called for tighter controls on FOBTs, including giving councils the power to limit the number in an area, as well as creating new planning rules to make it harder to open betting shops in empty premises such as old pubs and banks.
Speaking after Culture Questions, Emma said:
“The Minister seems to think the current law is working, but that is not what I am hearing from the betting shop staff who are facing violent threats nearly every day. Betting shop operators should be taking steps to proactively protect staff, rather than waiting until incidents occur.
“Labour recognises that people are concerned about the impact these machines are having on their community, and that’s why we want to bring in new powers for councils so that people can have a say in what happens on their local high streets. But the Government, true to form, has sided with betting shop operators over local communities.”