Dear Editor, This week’s prediction by the Local Data Company that high street vacancies are set to rise further in 2012 has sparked a debate around whether bookmakers and betting shops can, and should, have a role to play in revitalising the British high street.
The Portas Review claimed that a proliferation of bookmakers in low-income areas is ‘blighting our high streets’ and that they should be placed in a planning use class of their own, to enable them to be more tightly regulated.
The question has to be asked: can the country afford to exclude potentially profitable businesses from the high street? According to the Association of British Bookmakers, the bookmaking industry pays close to £1 billion in tax each year, about £400 million more than they make in profit, and pays approximately £10,000 in business rates per store.
Attacking one of the few growth industries currently seeking to take additional space on the high street appears short-sighted. Retail units are falling empty creating their own blight. Allowing betting shops to occupy some of these properties provides employment and ensures a degree of footfall – together hopefully with trips to adjoining retailers.
Carl Dyer, Retail Partner, Thomas Eggar LLP