The number of gambling businesses in Wigan remained steady in 2018, despite national concerns about increasing numbers of people suffering from gambling addiction.
According to the ONS, the area has 65 businesses in a sector that includes casinos and amusement arcades, although about three quarters are betting shops. Nationally, the UK’s high streets had 11,470 gambling businesses in 2018, about one per cent more than the previous year.
Amid widespread concerns about addiction, gambling problems among children have also led the NHS to open the first gambling clinic for young people in England.
Marc Etches, chief executive of the charity Gamble Aware, believes 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. Spokesman Ben Haden 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.”
Commission data shows that from October 2017 to September 2018, the UK industry made £14.5bn in profit, a third coming from online gambling.
But the Association of British Bookmakers has warned that some businesses may be forced to shut down for good, putting jobs at risk.
It blames the Government’s clampdown on fixed odds machines, cutting the maximum bet from £100 to £2 every 20 seconds.