Be at stake’ af­ter clam­p­down

Kent Messenger Maidstone - - FRONT PAGE -

The num­ber of gam­bling busi­nesses in Maid­stone has re­mained steady since 2010, de­spite na­tional con­cerns about bet­ting shops tak­ing over high streets.

The area has 15 gam­bling busi­nesses, the same num­ber it had seven years ago, ac­cord­ing to the reg­is­ter of busi­nesses held by the Of­fice for Na­tional Sta­tis­tics.

Na­tion­ally, the UK’s high streets had 11,370 gam­bling busi­nesses in 2017, 4% fewer than seven years ear­lier.

The As­so­ci­a­tion of Bri­tish Book­mak­ers (ABB) warns some busi­nesses may be forced to shut down for good fol­low­ing a gov­ern­ment clam­p­down.

Ear­lier this year Min­is­ter for Sport and Civil So­ci­ety, Tracey Crouch, an­nounced tighter mea­sures for fixed odds bet­ting ma­chines, dubbed the “crack co­caine” of gam­bling.

Sub­ject to a Par­lia­men­tary vote next year, the max­i­mum stakes are to be re­duced from £100 to £2. A spokesper­son from the ABB said: “We an­tic­i­pate that be­tween 3,000 and 4,000 bet­ting shops will close on high streets and in town cen­tres across the coun­try by 2020. As a re­sult 15,000 to 20,000 high street jobs could be lost.”

Data from the Gam­bling Com­mis­sion shows that from Oc­to­ber 2016 to Septem­ber 2017, the gam­bling in­dus­try in the UK made £13.9 bil­lion in profit, a third of it com­ing from on­line gam­bling.

Marc Etches, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the char­ity Gam­ble Aware, is now call­ing for bet­ter reg­u­la­tion of the in­ter­net in­dus­try, which al­lows peo­ple to gam­ble us­ing credit cards. A his­toric grade II listed ho­tel in Hawkhurst is plan­ning to ex­pand.

Own­ers of The Queen’s Inn in Rye Road have ap­plied for per­mis­sion to add eight bed­rooms, amount­ing to 83 square me­tres of ex­tra space, and to ex­tend the roof.

The build­ing, which dates back to the 16th cen­tury, was orig­i­nally part of Fowler’s Park Es­tate, where to­pog­ra­pher Richard Kil­burne wrote the first Kent County Sur­vey.

But be­cause of its his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance and the scale of the work, Tun­bridge Wells Bor­ough Coun­cil has been left un­cer­tain over whether to ap­prove the ap­pli­ca­tion.

Plan­ning of­fi­cer James Moy­sey said he needed to hear “ro­bust jus­ti­fi­ca­tion” for the num­ber of bed­rooms re­quired to avoid sub­stan­tial harm to the her­itage of the build­ing.

A date for the fi­nal de­ci­sion has not yet been set.

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