Today, the UK gambling regulatory body – the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) – revealed that five players have got banned from 24 betting facilities in the Birmingham city centre. The suspension was carried out by Betwatch, a partnership between the gambling regulator and the police, bookmakers and local councils aimed at dealing with criminal and anti-social behaviour in areas around betting shops.
Earlier, the Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Police have raised the red flag over a suspected drug dealing and anti-social demeanour linked to one bookmaker in the region. The ban comes as a result of these concerns, with the suspected individuals being issued ban notices by Betwatch.
Under the suspension, the five people were restricted from entering any betting shops located in the city centre of Birmingham. The individuals’ names and pictures have been sent to local betting outlets in order for bookmakers’ staff to be able to identify them.
The programme director for compliance of the UKGC, Helen Venn, commented on the ban, evaluating it as a positive result of Betwatch’s work, especially considering the fact that the scheme was implemented in Birmingham only 18 months ago. Ms. Venn also added that the UK Gambling Commission had always been focused on making local community and betting shops staff feel safe and well-protected when it came to gambling.
According to the Commission’s programme director for compliance, anti-social behaviour as well as the one associated with betting shops crimes could be dealt with only in case that the UK Gambling Commission works in collaboration with local authorities, the police and gambling operators. Ms. Venn added that the Betwatch scheme helps these objectives to be accomplished, and at the same time allows each partner to use all available tools to face various issues to deal with in order to guarantee public safety.
As mentioned above, the Betwatch scheme to share intelligence among local bookmakers related to anti-social behaviour and problematic customers was introduced about a year and a half ago in Birmingham. At the time when the programme was rolled out, the UK gambling regulatory body joined forces with West Midlands Police, the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), Business Improvement District (BID), local authorities as well as gambling companies that have been operating in the region. The partnership offered the parties a new approach aimed at making the communities safer by detecting crimes related to gambling as well as anti-social demeanour and preventing them.
The schemes that have been implemented through the Betwatch partnership of the UKGC are being used for reduction of gambling-related risks for local communities, with all participants in the scheme being encouraged to share information about problematic individuals who commit various anti-social or criminal acts. The schemes featured by the Betwatch partnership use information sharing applications in order to make the approach used easier.
Apart from Birmingham, local Betwatch schemes have been successfully introduced across other parts of the West Midlands, including Coventry and Solihull. In addition, further schemes of the partnership are being launched outside the region, with the City of Westmister and Great Manchester Police having expressed interest towards such a partnership.