Calls for law changes after Croydon North spends £160 million on gambling
Politicians have called for changes to gambling laws after shock figures showed more than £160m was spent on betting machines in Croydon North last year.
£162,180,200 was spent in the constituency on fixed odds betting terminals according to statistics from Fairer Gambling, an organisation which campaigns against unfairness in the industry.
The figure was the 15th highest in the country, with Bethnal Green and Bow spending the most at £243,270,300.
The terminals are gaming machines, most commonly touch screen roulette, where punters can stake up to £100 every 20 seconds.
Dubbed by some as the crack cocaine of gambling, Croydon North has 109 of the machines spread across the 30 betting shops in the borough.
Betting shops are limited to four terminals under the Gambling Act 2005 and campaigners believe that the maximum stake should be reduced from £100 down to £2.
Steve Reed, MP for Croydon North, said councils should have more powers to restrict the number of betting shops in an area.
He said: "Betting shops tend to open in greater numbers in areas which are poorer, because they are effectively leeching off the despair of poorer communities which are very short on money.
"That in itself is very unhealthy. Councils need powers to restrict and limit shops in any given area. Proliferation of betting shops can become a blight on the community.
"The figure of £162m is roughly the same amount you could spend building 16 new schools in the area. So that puts the scale of spending into context I think."
Councillor Simon Hoar, cabinet member for community safety and public protection, said councils could implement a similar strategy to alcohol licensing.
"With alcohol licences we can put on community impact zones. This means if certain areas are experiencing trouble with anti social behaviour due to drinking, we can restrict the number of off licenses which are there.
"It would be good to have a similar regulation for betting shops."
A spokesman for the Association of British Bookmakers said betting shops do not target poorer communities.
He said: "The idea that bookmakers target vulnerable communities is both false and offensive. Like any other retailer, we locate our shops where footfall is high and rents are affordable."