Coral betting shop in Coulsdon wins approval from Croydon Council licensing committee despite claims it will 'entice' youngsters
A bookmaker has won approval to open a controversial new betting shop yards from a college despite claims it would "entice" youngsters into gambling.
Councillors this week granted Coral permission to open a branch in the Parade, Coulsdon Road - a thoroughfare used every day by hundreds of students of nearby Coulsdon College.
The shop had been opposed by some residents and councillors, while a gambling addiction charity also expressed concern.
Coun Chris Wright, councillor for East Croydon and a governor at the college, feared some of its 800 students would be lured into gambling.
He said: "I am concerned that there would be a great temptation for vulnerable young adults - 90 per cent of whom pass the premises from their bus each day - to experience gambling."
Coun Steve O'Connell, Croydon's Greater London Assembly member, criticised Coral's choice of site - formerly an Oddbins off licence - as "distinctly poor".
He said: "I have concerns that it will tempt young people who wouldn't otherwise be tempted.
There is a place for bookies, but we have to be very conscious about the vulnerability of young people, many of whom use that shopping parade a lot."
GamCare, a charity that provides support for those affected by problem gambling, also raised concerns about the shop's proximity to young people.
A spokeswoman said: "We have concerns that young people in particular may not be aware of the risks associated with gambling.
"For most people gambling is a popular leisure activity, but for some it can spiral out of control, with potentially harmful consequences."
But Coun Tony Pearson, who sat on the sub-licensing committee that approved Coral's application, admitted councillors' hands were tied.
Gambling Commission guidelines to not allow councils to reject applications on moral grounds.
He said: "We didn't have any grounds to refuse it. We listened to what was said and looked at the evidence, but we can't refuse a licence because there may be problems.
"If, once the premises have opened, problems to occur, then residents can ask for the licence to be referred back to the licensing committee."
Coulsdon College did not lodge a formal objection to the shop.
Coral said it would strictly enforce the law that prohibits under-18s from gambling.
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