Tory: ‘Give everyone the Right-To-Buy – and all the betting shops would disappear’
What is the treatment for poverty?, asks Conservative councillor in gambling debate
08 December, 2017 — By Richard Osley
Jonny Bucknell wearing a Santa hat during the debate on gambling
A CONSERVATIVE councillor has suggested giving more people the “right to buy” their council and housing association homes could help tackle gambling problems in Kilburn.
Jonny Bucknell said rules and regulations on the betting industry were up for debate, but that problems would not properly be solved until levels of poverty in some areas of Camden had been eased.
During a licensing committee meeting on Tuesday evening, Cllr Bucknell suggested that getting people to want to “better themselves” through other means than gambling could be the way forward.
Camden Council is currently drawing up a new licensing policy and is among several local authorities who want the government to impose a £2 bet limit on computerised roulette machines inside betting shops, known as “fixed odds betting terminals” – regarded by many campaigners as one of the most addictive forms of gambling.
There are concerns about the need to tackle clusters in areas such as the Kilburn High Road, sometimes known locally as “the bookmakers’ mile”, where betting shops have opened in large numbers on both sides of the Camden and Brent border.
Each can legally provide four terminals, where it is possible to lose £300 a minute. Cllr Bucknell, who has promised to shoot from the hip after being deselected by his party ahead of next May’s council elections, said there was a “sense of inevitability and sadness” over the levels of gambling in poorer areas.
“People who are on low incomes gamble because they just hope they are going to get that magic win to get themselves out of poverty,” he said. “I always feel the restrictions we have are perhaps clutching at straws because we forget you can gamble online and we have no control over that. On the 25th of this month, we do have a birthday party and Jesus said ‘there will always be poor’, but I just feel the greater emphasis should be on what can we do to alleviate the poverty, which would solve all the gambling in that area.”
Labour councillor Thomas Gardiner called out “socialism”, to which Cllr Bucknell replied “capitalism” before adding: “Give everybody the right to buy and that gives them the incentive to better themselves. Give everybody in Kilburn the right to buy and all the betting shops will disappear.”
Licensing chairwoman Maryam Eslamdoust said the panel would be focusing on trying to secure limits to the betting machine stakes. “There are many theories that have said this is the most addictive gambling, so it’s not so much about online gambling. It’s fixed-odds betting terminals and it’s not a coincidence that they cluster around the most deprived wards.” The government is currently surveying opinion on betting machine stakes.