Application for a new Premises Licence: Coral, 56 Bow Common Lane, London, E3 4DE (LSC073/809)
Mr Ali presented the report for a new Premises Licence under the auspices of the Gambling Act 2005. Representations from local residents and those representing local residents had been received and were as detailed in the report.
The reasons as to why some representations had not been accepted were clarified for Councillor Khan (Ward Member), who was present on behalf of one of those who had made a representation.
Mr Woods, legal representative for the applicant, reported that the application was for consideration within the remit of the licensing objectives and reminded the Sub Committee that moral objections, irrespective of their content, could not be taken into account. None of the Statutory Authorities had any concern that the application failed to meet the licensing objectives.
Mr Woods drew attention to the additional material that had been submitted by the applicant which he believed assisted in addressing the concerns that had been raised. He also advised of the legal view that Members should aim to permit the application if it was within the Licensing Policy and objectives.
Coral had operated many betting offices on a national basis for a number of years; all these licences had been renewed without question. An Operators Licence had been granted by the Gambling Commission following extensive checks and clearances and Coral had extensive well tested policies and procedures in all their premises. This was supported by extensive staff training. The tabled information also clearly showed the kind of frontage and internal layout of the general premise and the signage that was displayed. Coral was also part of Gamcare and had company policies in place to ensure staff looked out for patrons who looked vulnerable.
All experienced operators were aware of the sensitivity required in operating premises located next to schools and places of worship. It should also be remembered that there was previously a betting office in St Paul’s Way and within the vicinity of the proposed premises that closed in 2007.
Mr Woods concluded by assuring the Sub Committee that neither children nor the vulnerable would be allowed entry and that the company had never found this to be an issue. Mr Woods reiterated that none of the Responsible Authorities had objected to the application.
Mr Sheldon stated that he was the Manager of the Children’s Centre that was almost opposite the proposed site. The centre was funded by Surestart with services delivered by LBTH for approximately 100 children aged under five.
His concern was not that children would be admitted to the premises but that he dealt directly with and had knowledge of, families within the area where parents, particularly fathers, were vulnerable and whose betting had a direct detrimental impact on family life.
There was a betting shop already within the locality and the Gambling Commission referred to those who gambled beyond their means and those whose capacity was mentally or medically affected. He had personally been called to the assistance of a family where the father had threatened violence to his wife and young children to try and gain access to additional money when he had already gambled the family income. The matter had been so violent that police had to be called.
At this juncture, the Chair advised Mr Sheldon that his comments were straying away from being directly applicable to this application. Mr Sheldon stated that he would have wished to expand on the conversations he had held with users of the centre who had voiced the impact and effect that gambling had on family life. He urged the Sub Committee to heed his concerns and those of the families that would be directly affected by licensing these premises.
Mrs Mahbub stated that she had lived in the local area for many years. Her concern was the effect the betting shop would have on the whole area, particularly on the large number of male youths who had little else to do. She did not comment from a morality point of view but that gambling created so many problems. There were a large number of families within the area who were on Benefits and family money would be used for gambling in the hope of a quick win. This affected the women and children who did not gamble. It was for us to protect the children and those who were vulnerable and who lived in the area; residents were all effected by the availability of gambling.
Councillor Rania Khan, Ward Member, spoke on behalf of Ms Choudhury who was a local resident and was also present. There was a need to protect residents; this was a highly populated area with a high youth population. It was also one of the poorest areas in the Borough. Gambling may be fun for some but it also destroyed lives and there was a real fear that this would increase if a premises opened in the immediate area.
The shop was located on the direct route to schools and opposite a children’s centre with those attending having to pass the shop on a daily basis. Children had their lives destroyed by parent’s gambling habits and many youths may see gambling as a quick way to make money.
Overwhelmingly, residents did not wish to see this type of premise in the area and many representations had been submitted to support this, not all of which had been accepted. There was also concern regarding a number of issues that others may not see as relevant; noise aggravation, the level of temptation to students and others. All major faiths opposed gambling and Councillor Khan felt that there the local community should be listened to.
Mr Hussain confirmed that all the representations that had been included were valid to some degree of content and that there had been a number of representations that had not been accepted as valid. There was a betting shop located in Devons Road.
Mr Woods advised that it was for Members to either take legal advice or look at the Gambling Act. Making a decision on the application would be difficult as the objectors had spoken passionately and clearly. However, whether the Act was fair or not, the Sub Committee would have to consider the matter on a legal basis. Whilst there may be a generic objection to more betting offices in Tower Hamlets, was the legal basis of the question that arose. This was whether these premises, as operated by Coral and their policies, would fail to uphold the licensing objectives. There was not one piece of evidence or objection to Coral’s business in the 40 years they had operated, to say that this was the case.
It may well be that the Act had been drafted in a way that was unfair to those making representations but this was not for those present to determine.
Mrs Mahbub commented that the applicant was looking at matters from a business perspective, the objectors from a family perspective. It was families and the community who lived with the impact of gambling.
Mr Sheldon stated that concern remained regarding the impact to children whose lives were affected by the increased access to gambling premises by vulnerable adults. If there were more gambling premises there would be more gambling.
Mr Woods disagreed with this last point.
At this juncture, the Chair stated that the Sub Committee would now, at 8.23pm, adjourn to consider the evidence presented. The Sub Committee reconvened at 8.38pm.
The Chair thanked those present for their presentations and reported that the Sub Committee had reached a unanimous decision which he asked Mr Hussain to detail.
Mr Hussain reported that after considering the evidence presented to them by all parties, the Sub Committee were minded to REFUSE the application on the grounds that they did not believe that the Licensing Objective of Protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling could be upheld if the application was to be granted.
Mr Hussain further reported that the decision would be sent out in writing and the applicant advised of the right of appeal.
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