Sat, 01 Aug 2020
A FORMER gambling addict who lost two homes to his vice has called on the public to oppose town centre betting shops.
Alfie – not his real name – believes Newbury Market Place is the wrong place to site them, and said: “This is where lots of young people gather for the restaurants, pubs and theatre.
“I’ve known young people steal money to play machines in these places.”
Planners are currently considering an application for a change of use from a betting shop to an “adult gaming and amusement centre” in the former William Hill bookmakers premises.
Alfie said: “Newbury is losing big-name shops and even more of its smaller shops – so does it need more gambling outlets?
“I’m not saying bookmakers should be banned, far from it.
“But does Newbury need them in the town centre?”
The 69-year-old grandfather said that his habit forced him to sell his home on two occasions and fears that young people may be tempted down the same path.
He said: “They’ll have been out drinking and to have gambling machines in the town centre is wrong.
“I’ve watched one lad put £1,500 in a machine in an hour-and-a-half.
“Betting companies say their staff will talk to someone if they’re spending too much money, but often they’re only youngsters themselves; they’re not social workers.
“How can they expect a staff member to tell a person who’s just lost £1,000 on the slot machines that perhaps they should stop now?
“It’s ridiculous and dangerous.”
Alfie said he believed the slogan ‘When the fun stops, stop’ was particularly cynical, and added: “People don’t go into places like that for fun; they go in to win money.”
West Berkshire Council’s website states that licensing objectives to bear in mind when considering an application for a gambling outlet include “preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way and protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling”.
Alfie said: “I’m not trying to ban these places, but the Market Place is the wrong venue.
“I don’t want people going down the path I followed from the age of 15. These machines are blood suckers.”