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Highland Council wants control over gambling machines

By Donna MacAllister

Local authority wants to be able to control gambling machine numbers
Local authority wants to be able to control gambling machine numbers

The UK Government is being urged by Highland Council to give them new powers to tackle problem gambling.

The local authority says government proposals to limit the number of controversial slot roulette machines in new betting shops and casinos do not go far enough.

In a draft reponse to the government consultation on slot machine numbers, the council says it is bizarre that local authorities have powers to restrict numbers of pubs, sex shops, and houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) on over-provision grounds yet have no powers to do the same in respect of betting shops.

The response, which is expected to be approved by members of the Highland Licensing Board today, reminds the government that the deprived Inverness neighbourhood of Merkinch now has three betting shops, each within 200 yards and containing 12 gambling slot machines between them.

The roulette machines let punters bet up to £100 every 20 seconds and have been linked to problem gambling and anti-social behaviour.

The Merkinch charity For The Right Reasons has campaigned against the terminals which, members believe, have ruined lives by encouraging people to gamble too much money.

Rev Richard Burkitt, who runs the charity, condemned bookies after Richard MacPhee stole £6,295 by from his employers, Crown Stores, in Kingsmills, and then blew the lot at a city branch of William Hill.

At Inverness Sheriff Court earlier this year MacPhee was ordered to carry out 240 hours of community service.

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