WIGAN is fast becoming the gambling capital of the North West – boasting more licensed betting shops than any other town in the region.
Figures show that there are currently 58 bookies in the borough, which is more per head of population than anywhere else in Greater Manchester.
The second highest was Stockport, which has a similar population size, but only had 43 betting sites.
It is also higher than the regional average of 50.
But the number of shops has in fact fallen from an all time high of 64 in 2008.
Adrian Parkinson, of the Campaign For Fairer Gambling, said: “The figures indicate a slight decrease in the number of betting shops across the borough, but they are now clustering.
“Wigan town centre now has seven betting shops, of which five are located between Wigan Wallgate station and the Grand Arcade.
“Wigan has the highest number of betting shops of any borough, including Bolton, Preston, Chorley, Blackburn and Warrington.
“This is absolutely shocking. Wigan Council recently passed a motion calling on the government to take action against betting shops. But it is doing little else to thwart the continued rise of betting shops in the main shopping areas. It simply flags applications through, with the recent opening of two Coral shops virtually opposite each other.
“Councils will be given limited powers under new planning rules later this year, but that relies on councils using those powers to stop further proliferation.
“If they don’t, Wigan could become the gambling capital of the North West outside of the major city centres.”
Alan Blundell, assistant director of regulation services at Wigan Council, said: “We work very closely with local businesses to ensure individuals are encouraged to gamble responsibly.
“We consult on all betting shop applications, and where relevant representation or objections are received, the matter may be referred to the committee for decision. Since 2008, the numbers of licensed betting shops has remained fairly static, with a slight decline in numbers.
“In January, Wigan Council passed a motion calling on the government to ban Fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) or grant councils authority to reduce the stake in relation to FOBTs.
“We have also been in dialogue with every betting shop highlighting our concerns of the potential effects of excessive use of FOBTs.”