Concern at plan for third bookmakers in Merkinch area of Inverness

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A charity has warned that permission for a third bookmakers in the Merkinch area of Inverness threatens its work with local vulnerable people.

For The Right Reasons, which offers support to recovering drug addicts, wants a review of licensing laws.

The call follows William Hill securing permission for premises in Merkinch.

The firm has offered to meet community groups to explain how it protects customers who may be at risk from gambling addiction.

The Reverend Richard Burkitt, who helps to run For The Right Reasons, said local people were "speechless" that another bookmakers was set for the area.

He said: "Nobody can possibly understand why there should be three bookies - that's 30% of all bookmakers in Inverness."

'Natural justice'

Highland Licensing Board had refused William Hill permission to open the betting shop.

The board said vulnerable people attending the charity would be tempted to gamble.

However, councillors had to reverse their decision after conceding that they did not allow William Hill to challenge this claim.

The board also said its reason for refusing permission had been based on speculation and not evidence.

Legal advice to board members warned that for these reasons, the board was unlikely to successfully challenge William Hill's appeal against refusal.

In a statement, the board said it accepted making a "breach of natural justice".

William Hill said it was sensitive to the concerns and that its staff would be happy to meet community groups to explain its policy to protect customers who may be at risk from gambling addiction.

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