London betting shops 'blight' on high street, says Harman

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Media captionLabour's deputy leader Harriet Harman says gambling shops are a 'blight' on the capital's high streets.

Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman has said betting shops are a "blight" on London's high streets.

A total of £9.5bn was spent on gambling in the capital in 2012, almost a quarter of the UK total, according to the Campaign for Fairer Gambling.

Betting shops are classified as financial services, meaning that if a bank closes a betting shop can open in the property unchallenged.

The government said it had no plans to change the law.

It added that councils would be notified if there was a change of use.

Shadow Culture Secretary Ms Harman said: "There is an absolute proliferation of gambling shops and it's causing a blight on people's lives but it's also causing a blight on our high streets.

"We're saying to the government they must let local people decide if they don't want betting shops and that means changing the planning laws."

There are 1,773 betting shops in London, according to the Campaign for Fairer Gambling.

Association of British Bookmakers chief Dirk Vennix said: "We have millions of customers that are happy to come into our shops.

"We employ around 30,000 people in London and we contribute around £600m to the local economy."

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