Who would have thought that the Gambling Act 2005, which came into force on 1 September last year and which I have earlier described as a sorry piece of legislation, would make national news? Well, it happened on Saturday when betting shops were the main news feature (alongside Peter Mandelson’s return to cabinet) on BBC Breakfast.
The Local Government Association, the umbrella organisation for local councils, has grave concerns about the impact of the new legislation and says it doesn’t work as it has led to a considerable increase in the number of betting shops particularly in deprived areas. Unsurprisingly, this mirrors our arguments against the betting licence application for the new bookies on Brockley Road. The BBC go onto it and came to Lewisham to do part of a feature for the Saturday Breakfast programme with local campaigner Glenda Rodgers and Sue (who was ultimately edited out of the final version). They then invited me to be interviewed live on Saturday morning, not about the battle over Brockley Road in particular but about the general implications of the proliferation of bookies for local communities and local councils.
It’s a bit difficult to make all the valid points in two or three minutes, especially if this was your first live TV interview and you had to get up at 5 a.m. after a busy week, but I feel a local campaigner from Hackney and I were able to retort the arguments in favour of the new legislation much better than the owner of a smaller chain of betting shops was in responding to the arguments against.
Lewisham has had its fair share, with the total number of betting shops going up by five to 77 in only a few months since the appeal against the Council’s decision to turn down the application for Brockley Road was decided in favour of the applicant in May. The fact that there is now a national campaign is definitely good news. It won’t change anything for Brockley Road, but if it ultimately leads to a change in the legislation towards better regulation and more power for local councils to take decisions for the benefit of their communities, that is a step in the right direction.