CLYDEBANK needs more authority to limit the number of gaming centres in the town, a councillor has warned.
Councillor John Mooney, convener of the licensing board, acknowledged the approval earlier this month of two Clydebank gaming centres had opposition.
But the licences for a Family Entertainment Centre and Adult Gaming Centre in the Clyde Shopping Centre went ahead and Cllr Mooney said the board shared concerns about the effect of gambling on vulnerable people.
He said the Gambling Act 2005 was a “very permissive” piece of legislation and doesn’t allow boards to have a policy for over-provision, as it can for alcohol licensing.
Cllr Mooney said: “It is so permissive that it is virtually impossible for a licensing board to reach the evidential bar required to refuse a licence, even when there are real concerns for the welfare of vulnerable people.
“It is my view that the Act is not fit for purpose, and I call upon the Scottish Parliament to legislate to allow over-provision policies and to set reasonable grounds for refusal to protect vulnerable people.”
He added the licences replaced existing ones because the business had reconfigured its units in Sylvania Way South. It was also the first gambling licence ever considered by the board, he said.
While previous applications had no objections and were approved under “delegated authority”, this time they were opposed by Linnvale and Drumry Community Council and went in front of councillors.
In response to Cllr Mooney’s calls to the Scottish Parliament for action, MSP Gil Paterson said it was a party political issue and blamed unionist parties for opposing the independence for Scotland required to have control over gambling.
He said: “Sadly, the power to regulate gambling lies with the UK Government – in Scotland there is little we can do to stop the over provision except argue for further devolution or independence. “It is typical of the Labour politicians, always asking Scotland’s parliament, and indeed government, to act in areas it has no control over.
“The Scottish Government has asked for power over gambling, and as usual the unionists collaborate to ensure we don’t get it. It is a habit they have got into, always asking the parliament and government to act like an independent it’s not.”
Cllr Mooney added he was pleased an alcohol licence had been granted to the new Food Warehouse by Iceland, bringing 20 new jobs to the town.
He added: “This was possible because our over-provision policy has been refined in the past five years to allow applicants to argue that the positive health benefits of employment may outweigh the negative health effects of greater alcohol availability, based on international research.”.”
“I would like to assure residents that the health and wellbeing of residents is of paramount concern to the Licensing Board when we make our decisions on a case-by-case basis in compliance with the prevailing law.”
Conservative MSP Maurice Golden said he was committed to responsible gambling and hit out at Mr Paterson's party-political attack.
He said: "Gambling in a licensed premises where trained staff are available in a safe and secure environment is preferable than the excesses often seen from online gambling.
"In Clydebank, I would like to see a strong commitment from West Dunbartonshire Council to promote responsible gambling and encourage politicians from all sides to work with the community and bookmakers to deliver this.
"We must listen to the community before agreeing to any new premises.
"Mr Paterson’s divisive comments are indicative of the SNP's narrow minded view of Scotland. This is not a party political issue. I hope he will stop focusing on the constitution and get back to the day job of serving the local community."