Yorkshire betting shop can expand despite warning from dad who lost son to gambling

A Sheffield city centre betting shop will be able to expand despite a number of objections – including one from a campaigner who lost his son as a result of gambling addiction.

At a licensing sub-committee hearing at Sheffield Town Hall, members were asked to consider the application of Bet Extra on Market Place, near the Castle Square tram stop.

Prior to the meeting, the representatives of the business owners said: “This is an application to extend the facilities of an existing independent operator who has traded in this location since 2013.

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“In that time the number of licensed premises in central Sheffield has reduced by seven, from 15 to eight.

A family run betting shop is looking to expand in Sheffield city centre.A family run betting shop is looking to expand in Sheffield city centre.
A family run betting shop is looking to expand in Sheffield city centre.

“Notwithstanding those closures, the applicant is keen to invest in this locality to offer better facilities to his largely repeat/regular customers.”

However, the application was met with concerns over crime and gambling harm.

Among the objectors were the Sheffield Children Safeguarding Partnership, The Licensing Authority, The Green Party City Ward Councillors, a local resident from the Gambling with Lives charity and ChangingSheff.

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At the meeting, members were told that the premises of the business were in the vicinity of “a crime hotspot”.

Members also heard that in the last 10 years – since the business has been operating – there was more evidence as to the harm living close to betting shops causes.

At the meeting, Coun Douglas Johnson (City, The Green Party) said the location was the main issue.

“It’s a very busy intersection,” he said, adding there a huge number of people living “literally yards from there”.

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He said a lot of young people live around there and a lot of pupils hang out in the area and as such, they are exposed to gambling.

“The impact on children cannot really be overstated,” he said.

Charles Ritchie, from Gambling with Lives, who lost his son to gambling addiction in 2017, told members that he was focusing on vulnerability.

He said there were between 117 and 496 suicides related to gambling in England every year.

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He said – as the gambling minister in 2022 stated – “anyone can become addicted (to gambling)”.

Mr Ritchie said the addiction comes from the availability and accessibility of “highly addictive products”.

The representative of the applicant said the business was owned by a family (third generation) and they have been operating in a number of locations in Yorkshire for many years.

He said gambling was a “lawful, legalised and highly regulated activity”.

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A betting shop is a “creative environment” and he added that most people, thankfully, gamble in a responsible way with money they can afford.

The applicant, he added, had regular staff and regular (repeat) customers.

“They have had no reviews or negative interactions in any of the licencing authority areas that they trade,” he said.

He called members on granting a replacement betting shop licence – which is not a new betting shop licence.

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When he was pressed about the advertisement of their business that can be seen by school children every day, he also said that they have signage on the entrance saying people under 18 are not allowed to enter the premises.

“We don’t allow children in the premises,” he said.

After a number of questions on whether children were targeted with big advertisements, he reiterated that they have had their licence for 10 years and they just want to expand their business on the same spot.

“There is absolutely no interest to attract people who are underage – or who might soon be of age – to come and use the facilities,” he said.

After a lengthy debate, the applicant was granted a licence to expand his business.

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After the meeting, Coun Johnson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Gambling causes harm. The licensing committee heard evidence directly from Charles Ritchie, who founded the ‘Gambling with Lives’ charity after his son Jack died tragically at the age of 24 from becoming addicted to gambling.

“I felt a weird privilege to sit next to him and explain why the three local councillors worried about expanding a betting shop in the city centre.

“I told the committee about the impact that a newer, bigger betting shop would have on the hundreds of school children, students and young people who pass through Castle Square every day.

“When I suggested it could be a condition that windows are blacked out to avoid the lure of gambling, the solicitor for the business strongly rejected that. He indicated they would have as big a display as the law permits.

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“The Green councillors’ comments were also in line with objections from the Children Safeguarding Partnership, the Licensing Service and Changing Sheff, the city centre residents’ group.

“It was very disappointing to find out that the sub-committee had decided to side with the gambling business and to grant the licence for bigger premises.

“Their decision to expand the betting shop comes as the council is consulting on a public space protection order or PSPO. The council is consulting on this because of the level of begging, ‘loitering’ and street drinking in the city centre already.”

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