Troublemakers could soon face bans from city centre bookies as a new prevention scheme, Betwatch, looks to stack the odds against anti-social gamblers.
On March 6 the ‘Betwatch’ scheme will be launched in partnership between the trade, Manchester City Council, Greater Manchester Police, the Gambling Commission and Cityco.
In response to calls from the industry the Betwatch scheme will target customers in betting shops who persistently engage in disruptive, aggressive or antisocial behaviour. Similar to Pubwatch schemes already in force, if a person is banned from one establishment they will be banned from all city centre bookies.
Participating companies will be able to take advantage of Cityco’s Business Crime Reduction Partnership, so offenders will be flagged up to all participating bookmakers to ensure bans are enforceable, no matter which city centre shop they try to enter.
The length of a ban will not be permanent, but tailored to the severity and frequency of any offences.
Councillor Rabnawaz Akbar, Executive Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “In a city which is as sport mad as Manchester it is natural people like to ratchet up the excitement and tension on the day of the match or event by placing a bet. People have the right to be able to have a flutter in a safe environment that is free from troublemakers, and we as a council have a duty to ensure that can happen.
"This is wholly unacceptable and why we are pleased to be able to introduce Betwatch into Manchester. People have the right to be able to have a flutter in a safe environment and we as a council have a duty to ensure that can happen.
“The ability for city bookmakers to share information easily about troublemakers with each other, and with the police will undoubtedly make a difference when it comes to tackling disorder. Over the years loutish behaviour at sporting events and venues has been met with a zero tolerance approach. Behaviour in betting shops should be no different.
“Through Betwatch the odds are now very much against troublemakers.”
Helen Venn, Executive Director of Compliance and Enforcement at the Gambling Commission, said: “Our regulations are aimed at ensuring gambling is fair, safe and crime-free. The successful roll-out of Betwatch in other parts of the country is proof that the scheme is effective in tackling crime and anti-social behaviour which can sometimes be associated with local bookmakers.
“We are confident that by the Commission, local authorities, bookmakers and police forces working together, both consumers and betting shop employees can feel better protected in their communities. We are also pleased to see individual gambling operators getting on board with the scheme and continuing to raise standards.”