COUNCILLORS have accused bookmakers of targeting residents living in Warrington’s most deprived areas.

The licensing committee unanimously accepted the authority’s new gambling policy during Tuesday’s meeting at the Town Hall.

A report calling for it to be adopted will now go to full council.

Every three years, the council, as a licensing authority, is required to produce a gambling policy, which sets out the its approach to premises used for gambling, such as amusement arcades, betting shops, bingo halls, clubs and pubs with gaming machines.

A consultation on the policy took place from November 15 to December 27, however, there were no responses.

A section of the report put before the licensing committee sparked concerns from members.

It said: “Gambling problems impact the more deprived communities the most, lower income households spend a larger proportion of their income on gambling – evidence has shown that there are more gambling machines located in deprived communities, and increases in unemployment are associated with increased lottery sales.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, Cllr Tony McCarthy (LAB – Rixton and Woolston) raised the issue with officers.

Commenting on the analysis, he said: “Some of the places where they open up are in areas with deprivation, low income and unemployment – that is where they seem to target.”

After his views were backed by other members, Cllr McCarthy added that councillors on the development management committee get ‘frustrated’ as they often find it difficult to object to applications for betting shops on planning grounds.

But he was reassured that officers will speak to colleagues in the planning department over the issue.

Cllr Brian Axcell (LD – Appleton) added: “I would certainly like to support what Cllr McCarthy has said about the issues of location.

“It seems in Stockton Heath they are springing up, it is a matter of regret we can’t look at the cumulative impact.

“Very often, they are in locations where they are going to create misery, putting it bluntly.

“There is very little we can do and it is a matter of regret that we can’t.”