NEW rules making it more difficult for bookmakers to open new shops have been welcomed in York.

Currently, bookmakers – just like banks and estate agents – are classed as financial services and can move into empty premises without planning permission.

Now planning minister Nick Boles has announced local authorities are to be given new powers to say no to the turf industry City of York Council can now consider whether an increase in the concentration of betting shops within a given area is appropriate.

Councillor Barbara Boyce said: “This is a welcome step in helping councils to have a greater say over how many and where betting shops are located. “While they are a perfectly acceptable feature of the High Street, having too many within close range of one another is problematic in terms of supporting vibrant shopping areas and I think that the Government has acknowledged this.

“We believe in York that a high concentration of betting shops also runs counter to our anti-poverty strategy.”

She put forward a Labour motion agreed at full council in March that joining a cross party campaign for more powers would boost the council’s anti-poverty strategy and preserve the city centre’s unique character.

The Government measures also include steps on betting terminals – to stop people from gambling as much as £300 a minute.

Cllr Boyce added: “There is a knock-on effect in gambling addiction leading to people resorting to payday lenders with massively high rates of interest, something that is hugely damaging to a local community.

“It doesn’t mean problem gambling will go away of course, but it is a positive step in helping to prevent more people needlessly falling into this very damaging addiction.”

Britain’s largest bookmakers William Hill said: “We recognise the need for Government to respond to public concern on betting shops generally, and B2 gaming machines in particular.

“The proposed recommendations are a balanced response, and we will now work to develop and embed the necessary IT changes and enhanced compliance framework.

“We will continue to assist with further research, the outcome of which will be published in the autumn.

“Our attitude to compliance is strong, and we aim to deliver continuous improvement through promoting responsible gambling to our customers and through the commitment of our betting shop colleagues.’’