Fight to stop 6th betting shop opening on Shawlands street

KATHRYN Hamilton-Knight is on the front line in the war on betting shops.

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Kathryn Hamilton-Knight says Shawlands needs more businesses, but not bookies
Kathryn Hamilton-Knight says Shawlands needs more businesses, but not bookies

Or, at least, she would be if bookies didn't have all the odds stacked in their favour.

The cafe owner has launched a campaign to stop a new home for fixed-odds betting terminals or puggies next to her cafe in Shawlands.

As many as a thousand people have signed her petition against the betting shop, which would be the sixth on the street.

But she isn't hopeful.

Ms Hamilton-Knight said: "We have a really nice street but nobody is making it easier for us by allowing businesses like this.

"Everybody is in agreement that the high street needs an injection of vitality and a bookie's shop does not provide that, especially when there are another four or five in the neighbouring region.

"The only way that the high street will survive is if there is a diversity of shops, a diversity of traders and a desire for the traders that are opening rather than pound shops and bookies."

Ms Hamilton-Knight- who owns the Eat Cafe - already has a bookies two doors down from her own business.

Retail insiders reckon that Shawlands town centre has real potential.

A year and a half ago the city council and local businesses, inspired by the theories of television's Queen of Shops, Mary Portas, set up a group to look at ways of improving the street, which has a run-down arcade and litter and parking problems.

Ms Hamilton-Knight is positive, but sees gambling as a sign of a dead street, not a living one.

"Bookies don't put any money back in to the micro-economy and they aren't putting money back in to the local economy," she said.

"Without local business, there is less local employment, less business rates. This is not rocket science."

Glasgow City Council, as the Evening Times revealed earlier this week, has lobbied for powers to restrict the growth of bookies.

The number of betting shops in Glasgow has jumped 20% since Labour liberalised gambling in 2005 - mostly because of the unrelenting rise in betting on puggy machines, or fixed-odds betting terminals.

Cash spent on these machines, argues Ms Hamilton-Knight, isn't recycled locally the way that her takings for cakes and coffees are.

And she has a sympathetic ear in the city treasurer Paul Rooney.

He wants to be able to reclassify betting shops - and payday lenders - to make expansion of those industries harder.

The Scottish Government doesn't think that will work - and is pressing Westminster for tougher powers.

Mr Rooney's concern is that his ward - Knightswood- has also seen a boom. The Tories there are understood to be split - while Chancellor George Osborne is said to be reluctant to lose hundreds of millions of pounds in tax from puggies that would come from cutting their £100-a-spin maximum stake.

David Meikle, the Tory councillor for Pollokshields, welcomed a council plan to review betting shops.

He said: "There is a place for betting shops, of course. But maybe we do need to look to see if local councils should have the power to decide when there are too many of them in any area.

"I am hearing a lot of concerns about this from retailers and community councillors in Shawlands. We need a diverse mix of shops and businesses in our high streets, so policy needs to be about getting that mix right.

"I have some sympathy with the council on this. Officials can't just turn down bookies right now."

The industry itself stresses that it supports tens of thousands of jobs and argues that all its premises have to be properly licensed by local authorities like Glasgow City Council.

Local government

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