Aug 29 2012 By Joe McGuire
John Mason gambling Image 1
A GLASGOW MSP has launched a campaign to tackle the number of betting shops in the city’s east end.
The SNP’s John Mason has accused bookmakers of targeting poorer areas in the city and setting up shop next to ATMs, post offices and pubs in order to squeeze the most cash out of those who can least afford it.
The Shettleston politician has tabled a parliamentary motion on the subject that’s set to be debated in Holyrood later this year.
In a show of cross-party solidarity Mason cites the example of Labour’s Harriet Harman who has said her government made a mistake by allowing an increase in the number of betting shops on the high street, and calls for new legislation “to protect vulnerable people in Glasgow Shettleston and the rest of Scotland”.
A study by Birmingham University revealed that richer areas have around five betting shops for every 100,000 people, whereas less well-off areas have up to twelve.
Mr Mason’s east end constituency, which is only six miles in size and has a population of just 70,000 people, has more than 30 large betting shops.
In contrast, West Aberdeenshire, Scotland’s most affluent constituency – with a similar population - has just five betting shops.
Mr Mason said: “Harriet Harman is right – Westminster did make a major mistake and simply allowed the number of betting shops on our streets to spiral totally out of control but now we need to move on and tackle this.
“There can be no doubt that gambling, just like alcohol, is easy to get addicted to and it has wrecked many families and pushed a lot of people into debt.
“Obviously there are a lot of good organisations out there, like Gamblers Anonymous, who help people get back on track but we do need to do more to stop people falling into that rut in the first place.
“It’s on that basis that I’d like the UK Government to reconsider the legislation and carry out a review.”
He pointed to Baillieston Main Street, where bookies exist side-by-side, as an example of the over-proliferation of bookies.
Mr Mason said that gambling firms view poorer areas as “an easy hit” and also expressed concerns that east enders are encouraged to spend money on the National Lottery without seeing a proportionate return in terms of grants.
A Gamblers Anonymous spokesman said that since the ‘liberalisation’ of legislation under the previous government they had seen a rise in their numbers by a third.
He said: “As far as the east end is concerned we have several active groups.
“After the legalisation of electronic gambling like roulette we saw a huge upsurge in attendance.
“We’ve grown, if you can call it that, in the past five years by a third.
“It’s a no brainer that people in the likes of Giffnock or Newton Mearns aren’t gambling as much as they’re not walking past half a dozen bookmakers everyday.”
He also said that the group had seen an increase in the number of young people and women joining the group.