Councillors in Leeds have called for more to be done to help problem gamblers in the city.
It follows news last November that Leeds would be home to the North of England’s largest gambling support clinic, which would help treat those who have addictions to betting.
But a meeting of licensing chiefs at Leeds City Council was told that potential addicts would have to refer themselves for treatment should they believe they have a problem.
Coun Ryk Downes (Lib Dem, Otley) told a meeting of Leeds City Council’s licensing committee that those addicted to gambling need extra support.
He said: “Gambling is addictive. The very last person who can address the addiction is the addict themselves. If they can go into somewhere to get help for themselves they are not going to.
“There is no way an operator is forced to do anything about it if they see someone suffering from it.
“If they do have to, is there any way of us testing them?”
A council officer said: “We do undertake visits to betting shops.
“There are quite a number of betting shops we have to get around. If we feel that someone is suffering, we will have a word with the people there.
“It’s the responsibility of all gambling outlets to support gambling help.”
Coun Gerry Harper (Lab, Little London and Woodhouse) spoke of a visit he made to a betting shop in the city where he saw a man using a fixed odds betting terminal.
He said: “There was a guy stood there feeding the machine time after time. He was there for about 20 minutes and must have lost £300.
“[The staff] didn’t say anything to him.”
The officer responded: “The staff are are supposed to be trained to see someone who appears to be distressed by gambling.
“We went into one where someone was kicking the machine because he had lost so much money.
“All [the staff] can physically do is give them a leaflet.”
The clinic will see psychiatrists and clinical psychologists working with patients whose lives are being wrecked by “severe or complex” issues with gambling. Although it is set to open next month, the location is still not known.
The officer added: “It will be in somewhere in Leeds. I can’t say the location yet but we are working on it.”
It is estimated that 430,000 people nationwide have a gambling problem while another two million are at risk of developing one.