Gambling businesses closing in Black Country as punters go online
Dozens of gambling businesses have closed across the West Midlands in a year, as punters are spending more time betting online.
A total of 30 closed across the Black Country in 2017.
The gambling sector includes casinos and amusement arcades, but the Gambling Commission estimates that about three quarters of businesses are betting shops.
In 2018, there were 50 gambling businesses in the area, down from 55 in 2017, according to the register of businesses held by the Office for National Statistics.
The biggest drop in gambling firms came in Walsall, where the total went from 70 to 50 that year.
In Wolverhampton, the number of gambling businesses dropped from 55 to 50. It was the same story in Dudley where it went from 50 to 45 and Sandwell from 70 to 65.
The total stayed the same in Staffordshire at 105.
Nationally, the UK's high streets had 11,470 gambling businesses in 2018, about one per cent more than the previous year.
In 2010, there were 11,790 venues of this type across the country.
Amid wide-spread concerns about addiction, gambling problems among children have also led the NHS to open the first gambling clinic for young people in England.
Simon Stevens, the NHS England chief executive, said: "This action shows just how seriously the NHS takes the threat of gambling addiction, even in young people.
"The links between problem gambling and stress, depression and mental health problems are growing and there are too many stories of lives lost and families destroyed."
Marc Etches, chief executive of the charity Gamble Aware, believes that the rising use of smartphones has given people easy access to online sports betting, casino games and slots.
He said: "Retailing is moving from the high street to online, and gambling is no different.
"If you’re a problem gambler, it’s likely you could be gambling in a variety of different ways, be it in a bookmakers, online, or in a casino.
"Having a highly regulated and fair environment for gambling, where ever, or how ever it might be, is essential, and customer safety should always be of the utmost importance."
There are 55,000 children classed as having a gambling problem in Britain, according to the Gambling Commission.
Ben Haden, Gambling Commission's programme director for Industry Insight said: "This year we have implemented new rules to strengthen age and ID verification checks.
"We’ve also been working with partners in financial institutions to develop the role they can play to protect vulnerable consumers."
Data from the Gambling Commission shows that from October 2017 to September 2018, the gambling industry in the UK made £14.5 billion in profit, with a third of it coming from online gambling.
But more businesses may go, according to the Association of British Bookmakers.
It blames the Government's clampdown on fixed odds machines, cutting the maximum bet from £100 to £2 every 20 seconds.
A spokesperson from the association said: "There will be a significant impact on the number of shops and people employed in our industry as a result of the stake cut but bookies will remain the home of traditional betting.
"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.
"High street betting shops also face similar issues to other retailers, like competition from other forms of gambling, and the increasing costs of rent and business rates."
To avoid identifying individual businesses the ONS has rounded the numbers.