Gaming centre plans thrown out over fears for people on low income

Plans for a slot machine business in a town centre have been thrown out due to fears some people would gamble away what little money they have.

The former Coral shop in Bradford Street, Walsall. Photo: Google
The former Coral shop in Bradford Street, Walsall. Photo: Google

Cashino Gaming Ltd had hoped to take over the former Coral betting shop premises on Bradford Street and open up an Adult Gaming Centre (AGC) offering low odds gambling and bingo.

But despite officer recommendations to approve, members of Walsall Council’s planning committee rejected the application due to fears over the impact it could have on people on low income.

They also raised concerns about potential anti-social behaviour and fear of crime such an establishment might encourage.

Will Rogers, representing Cashino, told Thursday’s meeting the new business would result in the creation of six new jobs, bring extra footfall to the town centre and bring the empty unit back into use.

He said: “AGCs are where people come to spend their spare change, have a game of Bingo and enjoy their favourite pastimes in convenient locations.

“They do not offer fixed odds betting terminals, synonymous with betting shops, and this is reflected in the average customer stake which is around 30-40p.

“There is sometimes a misconception as to how AGCs operate in practice and it is important to understand they are not noisy uses, the games appeal to individuals and not groups of people, are strictly controlled, do not serve alcohol and operate a strict 25 entrance policy.”

He added the company had reduced proposed opening times from 24 hours a day to allay concerns.

But Walsall Labour Group leader and St Matthews ward councillor Aftab Nawaz said Cashino offering complimentary hot drinks would attract more vulnerable people to the premises.

He said: “I don’t think it’s appropriate. Do we want Walsall town centre just to be a place where people come and gamble? My view is it doesn’t add any vitality to the town centre.

“We are going to have a premises that’ll just attract vulnerable people and in my view, play on their vulnerabilities.

“The council has done a lot to help the homeless but there are vulnerable people out there. My fear is they will end up going to this and spend the little bit of money they’ve got left.

“I also see a situation will be created where everyone will be going to this place to get a free warm drink and then you have issues happening outside the building.”

Committee chairman Mike Bird said: “Here we have a glaring example of the wrong thing in the wrong place for the wrong people.

“Yes, any appeal could lead to an application for costs but it’s a chance I’m prepared to take to protect people who unfortunately are not in a position to protect themselves.”

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