Another Betting Shop in Wood Green...

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Yet another betting shop has recently opened in Wood Green.

A little history at this point: In the late spring/early summer of last year, a sign went up in the window of the prominent building that used to house Burger King at the corner of the High Road and Turnpike Lane announcing that an application for a gambling license had been made for a shop called Betfred. While it was mentioned that representation could be sent to appeal against the granting of the license, no information as to how to obtain the forms was give. I spent some time therefore locating the forms on the maze that is Haringey Council’s website and upon answering the questions asked, attached a lengthy compilation of articles written about the proliferation of betting shops, the social impact of such proliferation, the affect it has on crime, and the fact that it targets and

“predatory profiteering” The new Betfred Shop opposite Turnpike Lane Station

“Predatory profiteering” - the new Betfred Shop opposite Turnpike Lane Station.

therefore exploits the poor. Also attached were articles by and about local residents who have had enough of their High Streets being wrecked by gambling businesses and the clientele they often attract. An important point which I made involved the dangers the shops present to ‘the vulnerable’ – particularly those who have not reached majority status. The reply I received said that the body given the responsibility of granting the license was already familiar with the articles I sent and that the reasons I gave for denying the application did not match up to the council’s criteria and were therefore irrelevant. The matters I pointed out, I was told, are the responsibility of the Gambling Commission to raise, not an area resident.

Curiously enough, the work being done to the interior of the property came to a halt. More than a year went by without any sign of life. The adjoining shop, also once a part of the old Burger King, opened up as a Costa coffee shop, but any sign of Betfred could not to be seen. The A4 paper taped to the window remained to tell people that an application for a gambling license had been made, and that representation should be sent in by a certain time. While in the current economy a building sitting empty for a lengthy period of time does not seem like a good thing, I found it preferable to yet another outlet that would exploit the poor, feed the addicted, and attract drug dealing, skunk smoking, passers-by harassing gangs of youths to loiter in such close proximity to the Turnpike Lane Underground Station and Wood Green’s nicest coffee shop.

While the shop at Turnpike Lane sat empty, other developments were taking place in the campaign against betting shops. A Scrutiny Review was held on the 10 November, 2011, at 3:00 and lasting into the evening to discuss the clustering of betting shops in Haringey. The result was to further discussion, but has as of yet had zero impact on the action taken by council leaders. As great as it may be to see Haringey Council finally making this a topic of discussion, the whole affair was marred by the inefficiency and lack of professionalism that people have come to expect from our local government. A few examples:

  • Despite being in contact with council officials and Tottenham MP David Lammy, I received no notice of this whatsoever nor was the event as widely publicized as the Council official I later contacted seemed to imply. I would hardly call putting an article in Haringey People the month of the meeting in question reflective of the panel’s supposed aim ‘to publicise this as widely as possible’, as the official said.
  • I was permitted to send in a written submission for the Scrutiny Panel, but the minutes of the meeting, which I was told I would receive ‘the end of next week’ have not come, and the time frame indicated will have been a year ago, ‘the end of next week.’
  • I was informed that ‘a draft report detailing the conclusions and recommendations from the review will hopefully be ready in early December.’ This draft report was not sent out to contributors until June 9 of this year.
  • As a direct contributor to the panel, I was told that I would receive a copy, not only of the draft report, but of the full report which was ‘due to published on June 21st and to go before the Overview & Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday 29th June for final approval of the conclusions and recommendations.’ I have yet to receive it.

Leaving these administrative issues, and looking at the report itself… The cover features a map of betting shops in Haringey. The number of such shops in reality far exceeds those pinpointed on the map. Several on Wood Green High Road and in the Wood Green area were visibly missing. To be blunt, its accuracy better reflects something a primary school student might put together from memory, not an important document with great implications issued by a governing body. The content beyond this map does not look quite like half a years worth of work, either. The conclusions the panel reached in the mere 11 pages were those residents reached some time ago.

more betting shops for Wood Green

More betting shops for Wood Green?

Despite the blunderings of the Council, I was hopeful that the betting shop debate had impeded Betfred’s progress. The conversation was also in the newspapers again, with David Lammy in one article rightly scoffing at the ridiculous claims made by Bookmakers that they are a positive contribution to an area’s culture and diversity. Unfortunately his campaign after the election of the Coalition government seemed to take on a more partisan flavour. This could have been in reaction to partisanship on the side of the Coalition. It is also true, though, that the increased emphasis on members of the Labour party backing Lammy’s campaign alienated supporters from the Coalition parties. On 17 May, Lammy, in his words, ‘tabled an amendment to the Localism Bill in order to give communities the power they needed to manage the number and location of bookmakers. The amendment sought to change the planning category of betting shops so that they are no longer classed alongside banks and building societies and are placed in a class of their own, just like Casinos and Gaming Arcades.’ The result? A reversal of roles between parties that would historically have been for and against such an amendment. 221 MPs from Labour, the Greens, SDLP, DUP and Plaid Cymru supported the amendment. 315 Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs defeated it. In the ranks of this latter group were those who had previously been vocal in their support of Lammy’s campaign. Any emphasis he was beginning to place, then, on party rather than policy was surely a mistake. No mention, of course, was ever made of the fact that it was Labour who introduced the current Gambling Act, supported at the time by Lammy himself. I have not received correspondence from the office of David Lammy, MP, since May 18 of this year.

 

Oh…Did I say something about a new betting shop opening? Indeed. Finally, well more than a year after it applied for a license, there is a shiny new Betfred that stands to greet all visitors exiting Turnpike Lane Underground Station. The other night, I didn’t have to walk out of the station to smell the illegal substances hanging from the patrons’ mouths. I smelled them coming up the escalator. The harassing and, for many, intimidating voices of the noisy clients standing outside the shop reverberated through the underground passageway. The offer of ‘skunk’for sale was that much quicker, and with the whole package of addiction, debt, and poverty brought by the gambling establishments, the decline of our area will be that much swifter.

In September, in the window of what was for a while Café Latino, a piece of familiar A4 went up, after the deadline for representation. Another group has applied to open a gambling establishment on Wood Green High Road, this time opening up directly on to the Wood Green Shopping City Bus Stop. What will it take to learn? When will our leaders listen? So yesterday, Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman accused bookmakers of “predatory profiteering” in an Evening Standard article. She’s right. But what are she and the rest of the people at Westminster, regardless of party, going to do about it?

Ryan King is a committee member of the Parkside Malvern Residents Association and is the Neighbourhood Watch Coordinator for the Sunrise Neighbourhood Watch. He is a third year student at Highland Theological College of the University of the Highlands and Islands and serves as the assistant pastor of Grace Baptist Church (Wood Green).
Photo credits: Alan Stanton and Ryan King

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