Fruit machine take-away is under way

PUBLISHED: 12:26 18 August 2006 | UPDATED: 22:07 28 May 2010

FRUIT machines are to be banned from all Fenland take-aways, fish and chip shops and taxi offices - and the purge has begun already in Wisbech. Premises in Walsoken and Norwich Road operating either without a permit, or where the permit had run out, were

FRUIT machines are to be banned from all Fenland take-aways, fish and chip shops and taxi offices - and the purge has begun already in Wisbech.

Premises in Walsoken and Norwich Road operating either without a permit, or where the permit had run out, were ordered to remove them immediately.

Councillor Kit Owen, Fenland District Council's portfolio holder for licensing, said council officials acted following complaints from parents that youngsters were using the machines unsupervised.

"I do welcome the removal of these machines from take-aways and the like which have blatantly been used without adequate supervision," he said.

He said the new Gambling Act, due to come into force next year, had already given councils increased powers. Take-aways operating legally, for example, have not been able to renew their fruit machine licences since July 1. It means operators have a maximum of three years to remove them, and as licences fall due the machines must be removed, or they will be removed by the council.

"In Wisbech we acted after complaints from residents, but there have been similar complaints over the years from towns such as March, and we will be looking at the new laws very carefully," he said.

Cllr Owen said responsibility for premises' licences and individual permit holders will come within the council's powers. All Fenland's 282 pubs and 33 clubs that want to continue with fruit machines must apply for new licences.

The new laws should not affect village halls, which stage small bingo games or whist drives. The law says special licences are required only where receipts from gambling exceed £2,000 in a seven-day period, which will exclude most village halls.

Cllr Owen said the main objectives of the act were to protect children and other vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling. There will be a transition period from January until next September when premises can apply for the new licences.

Fenland Council had adopted a new draft gambling licensing policy setting out the act's principles, and the council's responsibilities. But councillors were told that "the licensing authority cannot become involved in the moral issues of gambling".

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