Councillor and homeless charity slam new 24-hour gambling lounge in Northampton town centre
"Casinos, pawn shops, loan sharks, bet shops and gambling joints will drive families away. This is not part of our vision for the town."
A new adult gambling lounge has opened in a busy Northampton town centre street.
Palace Amusements has recently set up shop at the former William Hill bookies in Fish Street, which has stood vacant since 2019.
The gambling lounge, which has created eight new jobs, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and offers customers free coffee while in the premises.
The machines inside range from 10p to £2 stakes with top prizes of £500, the company said.
Danielle Stone councillor for the Castle ward, has raised her concerns with the move claiming it is 'not part of our vision for the town'.
She said: "We want to regenerate the town and bring people in to shop, to enjoy leisure time and cultural pursuits.
"Casinos, pawn shops, loan sharks, bet shops and gambling joints will drive families away. This is not part of our vision for the town.
"We need family friendly spaces. Spaces that are hospitable for young people. An intergenerational town with something for everyone. This is not the way to do it."
The councillor added: "The inducements of free coffee and 24/7 access is alarming. This is encouraging out of control gambling."
When plans were put forward in September last year to convert the empty shop into a gambling establishment, councillor Stone scolded the idea.
She told the Chronicle and Echo in September: "It's entirely unhelpful. It's not helpful in terms of trying to draw people into the town and make it family friendly.
"I thought we were doing all this work to develop the town centre into a residential space with leisure, services and niche retail shopping.
"We need to be thinking about things more creatively, and this is not doing that."
West Northamptonshire Council and Palace Amusements have been asked to respond to councillor Stone's concerns but have not yet commented.
Northampton Hope Centre, which is an anti-poverty charity that supports the homeless, said: "We completely agree with the condemnation of this development. Gambling is an exploitative tax on poor and vulnerable people, and 24-hour gambling makes this worse. Problem gambling is a brutal assault on people's lives. We deplore this development."
Stuart Timmiss, from West Northamptonshire Council, why the shop was given the go-ahead.
He said: “This project will bring a currently vacant commercial unit within the town centre back into use, with neutral impact upon the character and appearance of the adjacent Derngate Conservation Area. It does not adversely impact on neighbour amenity.
"As a council we are required to ensure all planning decisions taken are in accordance with national guidance and legislation to which the our local polices must align. Whilst I understand the concerns raised, this particular application met all of the requirements and therefore is deemed to be acceptable.”
In 2016, the Gambling Commission estimated there were up to 340,000 problem gamblers in the UK, with many more individuals at risk.