London News & Search
Assaults and criminal damage in and around betting shops are on the rise in London, new figures show.
The number of violent incidents went up by 24% from 2014 to 2016, according to Metropolitan Police figures. There were also 24 sexual assaults recorded.
Criminal damage rose by a third in the same period.
The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) says betting shops have one of the lowest rates of crime of any retailer.
It added these figures may not relate to betting shops themselves, due to police recording limitations, which record crime using the location code “betting shop”.
The police say these figures could also include incidents in the vicinity of bookmakers.
Some incidents of criminal damage in betting shops were previously going unreported to police, according to documents seen by the BBC.
Previous ABB guidance, agreed in consultation with the Met, stated it should only be reported to police when a suspect remained on site or staff could identify the culprit by name.
The association says all incidents are now reported but did not say when this guidance changed.
Stopped from intervening
Leah Kay, who worked in a Welwyn Garden City bookmakers, said a customer smashed up the shop after she could not give him his £1,000 winnings immediately.
While working at a different store, she said management refused to ban a man who vandalised machines.
“Management told us that we couldn’t intervene because he was making the company so much money. We were simply told to get the machine fixed,” she said.
Barry Phillips, a former betting company head of security and former operational head of the Flying Squad, said the practice of lone working may be to blame for the rise in violence.
“Shops are vulnerable to anti-social behaviour in the evening, as this is the time that people just go on the fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), and it’s also the time when they have single staff,” he said.
He added he had seen criminal damage to gambling machines rise across the industry, corroborating police figures.
Murdered betting shop manager’s widow: ‘I’m getting frustrated’
In 2013, south London betting shop manager Andrew Iacovou was beaten to death by a gambler who had lost hundreds of pounds on a FOBT.
Mr Iacovou’s widow, Anita Iacovou, has been campaigning to end single staffing of betting shops.
“They told me that the security was right. I told them if the security was right in the shop, then Andrew would not have died,” she said.
“Where there’s cash, they need people not to be working single-handed.”
She said she was becoming frustrated that little is being done to make betting shops safer for their staff.
“I need the government to do something about it,” she said.
“I’m trying to fight, not for me alone, but so Andrew’s mind can be at rest, knowing that something has happened after what he gave his life away for.”
A spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling said: “FOBTs are highly-addictive machines. They inevitably lead to customers losing more than they can afford and losing control.”
Jennifer East, Met Police chief inspector for drugs and licensing, said: “We will continue to work with the ABB and betting shop managers to reduce crime on the premises.”
London News & Search