Lammy says: "As the Bill went through Parliament, attention was focused on super-casinos and internet gambling. What no one spotted were the loopholes making it easier for betting shops to saturate high streets and town centres.
"The response of the industry will be that this is all about personal choice. But I don't want to ban betting or betting shops. We all enjoy a flutter on the Grand National or a bet on football. What is in question is whether communities can take ownership of their own high streets. People should be able to make collective choices about how their areas look and feel.
"So first, gambling establishments should no longer be allowed to apply for space under the same pretences as any other financial service. Secondly, local authorities must be able to control the number and influence their location. Councils can already decide that there are too many bars and pubs in a particular area: why shouldn't the same be true of betting shops?"
(Extract from Evening Standard article, February 2010 – more here)
Lammy called a Westminster debate in November 2010, and is also campaigning from his own website.
William Hill contacted Lammy in February 2010, disputing many of the claims of his campaign ("the facts do not support the perception") and asking to be regulated "on the basis of fact; not erroneous perception"...Lammy responded to their arguments as follows:
William Hill: "Far from undermining sustainable communities there is clear evidence that betting shops add to the vibrancy of an area and increase footfall for other retailers...Betting shops also provide flexible local employment and career development for local people and the idea that the availability of betting shops drains the incomes of poor families is scotched by the data from the ONS Food & Expenditure Survey which shows that in London, only 0.4% of income is spent on gambling (per cent of total spend) of any kind."
David Lammy: "...this general figure demonstrates absolutely nothing about what those in the poorest areas spend on gambling...the industry deliberately targets areas of poverty and deprivation – how else do you explain why deprived Newham has over three times as many gambling establishments as wealthy Richmond?...Demand for gambling in a William Hill is satisfied both in affluent Muswell Hill and less affluent Archway, yet the former has just one of your shops, whilst the other has four. Do you believe that the people of Archway would somehow be unable to find William Hill if there were only one or two of your establishments?"
William Hill: "Betting shops are over 18 only establishments and it is generally at the insistence of the police and licensing officers that shop frontages are being opened to public view. William Hill and other major operators have made great strides in ensuring that betting shop staff operate a 'think 21' policy. Therefore we do not believe that betting premises present a major risk to children or young persons. Merely having to walk past a betting shop does not mean that a child is in close proximity to gambling."
David Lammy: "Given that last year a gambling commission investigation uncovered that 98% of bookmakers, including your own outlets, allowed under-age gambling, I have serious reservations when you say you have made 'great strides' in operating a 'think 21' policy....I would also contend that 'merely having to walk past a betting shop does not mean a child is in close proximity to gambling'. All advertisements, including those emblazoned on the windows of your outlets, are intended to have an effect on the public...When those signs tell me...how £10 of my money can become £450...I have no doubt that it plays on the minds of vulnerable people that are desperate to break free from the shackles of poverty."
William Hill: "...there are processes in place such as self exclusion and customer interaction to protect the vulnerable. William Hill has just in fact received an award...for its significant financial contribution to the research, education and treatment of problem gambling."
David Lammy: "...pardon me if I choose not to offer my congratulations when your betting shops clearly make a net contribution to the problem by saturating certain neighbourhoods."
In his campaign Lammy posits that "The concentration of so much gambling in one area can change the character of a neighbourhood and send all the wrong messages to young people.
"In Haringey alone, in the past two years, there have been almost 750 public-order offences related to gambling premises — more than one a day. It cannot be right, either, that police time is wasted on such avoidable, petty crime."
William Hill: "We were disappointed to see that you had described betting shops as a 'haven' for anti-social behaviour. Betting shops operate in a highly regulated environment. One cannot drink alcohol or smoke in a betting shop and our staff enforce these regulations rigorously...we rely on the police or community safety teams to help our staff uphold the law...(regarding groups smoking and drinking outside betting premises) we do see this as a matter for local police who are empowered to move on those who are causing a public nuisance...This really is the law of unintended consequences."
David Lammy: "Yes, police officers and community safety teams are there to aid your staff, but only as a last resort. When your clients exhibit anti-social behaviour as a consequence of the service that you offer...then you, as the owner of the commercial premise, ought to take responsibility for that and employ your own security staff..."
William Hill: "We are aware of the existence of illegal gambling premises...in your constituency. Licensed and regulated premises are also much more preferable to the proliferation of illegal gambling...Reducing betting shop coverage increases the risk of illegal gambling in pubs, clubs and other establishments..."
David Lammy: "If...you were to close your William Hill at 440 High Road Tottenham, its clientele would have no trouble walking 200m down the road to the next William Hill at 375 High Road....The current coverage of betting shops is so dense, and the choice on offer so vast, that it would have no noticeable impact at all on people's access to legal and licensed gambling."
Lammy ends: "I do not oppose the presence of gambling establishments on our high streets. As you helpfully acknowledge, this is not a 'moralist crusade' – it is not about the rights and wrongs of gambling. This is about a balanced and vibrant high street, and residents having the power to achieve that."
(You can download the full correspondence at David's site – but be ready to switch off the loud video that comes on when the site loads).
Anyone with any ideas on how to further the aims of the Tottenham campaign and make it national, please get in touch!
Oh, and this is Tottenham's Betting Map:
View Gambling in Tottenham in a larger map