Islwyn MP calls for an end to single staffing of betting shops
Islwyn MP Chris Evans has called on the UK Government and the betting industry to create a National Charter to deal with the issues caused by the single staffing of betting shops.
A recent study from the union Community found that half of betting shop workers had been threatened with physical violence at work in the past year – most while staff were working alone.
Labour MP Mr Evans used to work in a betting shop while he was a student at university.
During a Westminster Hall debate last week he said: “Although I have some fond memories of my time as a bookmaker and of some of the characters whom I met, I cannot say that my four years passed without incident. Whether someone was upset with the odds being offered or by losing money that they could not afford, their anger was inevitably directed at the person behind the counter: me.
“While it could be shrugged off when someone was working with me, I felt particularly vulnerable when working alone, in particular if I had taken large sums of money. I left the betting industry some 14 years ago and had assumed that the practice of single staffing had ended. I was therefore shocked to learn that it is still going on, which is why I called for this debate.
“Over the past few weeks and months, I have read about an increasing number of cases where betting shop workers have been attacked, assaulted and tragically even murdered. When we discuss the betting trade, whether problem gambling or antisocial behaviour, we rarely focus on betting shop staff, yet 55,000 people work in bookmaking, which is the equivalent of 10% of the leisure industry. The work force is mainly made up of women, some of whom are re-entering the workplace after having children, or students, who need flexible or part-time work while studying, as I did when I was a student.
“In recent years, however, we have witnessed a reduction in the number of betting shop employees. From 2008 to 2011, the number of betting shop staff fell from 60,247 to 54,311.
“In contrast, the number of shops has increased from 8,862 in March 2009 to 9,067 in March 2011. We expect staff to enforce consumer protection measures and to verify the age of gamblers. At the same time, they have to police fixed odds betting terminals. Speak to somebody who works in a betting shop today and they will tell you how difficult it is for staff to oversee fixed odds betting terminals usage if they are on their own.”
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