Councillor opposes ‘Little Vegas’ plan for Bedford High Street
A new 24/7 adult gaming centre dubbed ‘Little Vegas’ could open on the corner of Bedford High Street and Mill Street if it gains a premises licence.
But one councillor has said the town centre is already “flooded” with gambling premises as she spoke out against the plans.
On Tuesday (20 September) Bedford Borough Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee considered a premises licence application for Little Vegas, 73 High Street, Bedford.
Adult gaming centres (AGCs) are premises for adults providing gaming machines with higher payouts than family entertainment centres.
Speaking to oppose the application, councillor Lucy Bywater (Green, Castle) said the town centre is “flooded” with gambling premises, and this cumulative impact is something that “we really can’t ignore”.
Cllr Bywater added that both Castle Ward councillors (councillor Ben Foley, Green) have reported complaints from Mill Street residents about excessive noise, anti-social behaviour, and criminal activity related to the night-time economy to the police and environmental health.
“There are actually even more problems than reported,” she said.
“They put up with it because they often tell us there’s no point in reporting, so reporting figures are not reflecting reality.
“I don’t accept that residents should have to put up with these problems just because they live in the town centre.
“The cumulative impact of an additional 24/7 gambling premises would risk adding to these problems and criminal activity by encouraging people to visit gambling premises after other licensed venues are closed.
“I just want to really emphasise that being open between 10pm and 8am is the key concern for us as ward councillors in terms of this licence.
“These businesses are clearly very lucrative indeed but as ward councillors we are really concerned this prominent venue would only bring negative effects to the town centre and to its residents.
“And for this reason, I ask the sub-committee not to grant this licence,” she said.
The applicant’s (Chongie Entertainment Limited) representative was Paddy Whur, a licensing lawyer from Woods Whur, who responded to councillor Bywater’s points.
He said that if there’d been real issues in relation to vulnerability and or crime and disorder they would have been produced either by the police, as the crime and disorder statutory advisers, or by councillor Bywater directed to the other betting shops in the locality.
“And we’ve not had any evidence produced that any of those premises have had issues which councillor Bywater says may happen,” he said.
“In relation to the hours aspect, it’s my respectful submission to the committee that that really should be determined in the light of the evidence that’s here today.
“That it should be determined by your colleagues in planning and any representations that are made in relation to the hours of opening in planning terms because there’s nothing in my submission to suggest why the hours should be curtailed under the Gambling Act.
“My final point is that section 153 [of the Gambling Act 2005] asks you to aim to permit, and the gambling commission advice, and your own policy, says only where it’s necessary should you condition a licence,” he said.
The committee’s decision will be posted on the council’s website within five working days of the hearing.
By John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter