Knowsley is one of the most deprived boroughs in the country with residents experiencing a host of issues associated with chronic poverty and deprivation.
It is also the gambling capital of the UK – with more people in Knowsley gambling regularly than anywhere else in the country, according to a report released by Public Health England.
The document reveals Knowsley has the highest levels of gambling out of a group of 19 local authority areas with significantly higher gambling levels than anywhere else in the country.
By the numbers
In the past 12 months, almost 80% of people in Knowsley have gambled, compared with figures of 68% in neighbouring Liverpool, 67% in Wirral, 65% in Sefton and 60% in St Helens.
Some areas of the country have rates as low as 23%, according to the report released by Public Health England in September.
Nearly half of the borough’s 34 betting shops are in Huyton, where there are 17 establishments. Kirkby has 11 and the remainder are in Halewood, Prescot, Whiston and Stockbridge.
The report’s findings on ‘harmful gambling’
While regular gambling and problem gambling are not inextricably linked, the report states: “The most socio-economically deprived and disadvantaged groups in England have the lowest gambling participation rates, but the highest levels of harmful gambling and they are also the most susceptible to harm.
“So, if there are no interventions to improve this situation, harmful gambling is likely to make existing health inequalities worse.”
For Knowsley, with the combination of being one of the most deprived boroughs in the country and the one with the highest rates of gambling, the levels of harm being produced by the past-time is a growing cause of concern for the local council.
Moves to combat problem gambling
When the three year review of the borough’s gambling licensing policy came up for discussion earlier this year, in an attempt to deal with some of the harmful effects of gambling, Knowsley Council proposed several changes to its licensing regime, including moving from yearly to six monthly inspections of gambling premises.
At a meeting of the sustainable borough scrutiny committee in September, Knowsley Council’s consumer protection officer Alan Shone gave councillors a breakdown of the 34 licensed gambling premises in the borough - nearly half are in Huyton.
In order to get a clearer picture of where the areas of greatest risk of harm are in the borough, Knowsley Council has plans to drill down further into where the vulnerable areas are in the borough, which officers say could then be used to inform licensing decisions in future.
Proposed changes to regulation
Mr Shone said: “We also are proposing a change in our regulation and compliance at a local level to include a project detailing how we move forward as far as gambling that is illegal, such as if there’s any illegal poker games taking place in gambling premises or public houses/ pubs and clubs.
“We also want to look at the issue of gambling harm and its effects on members of the community and that relates to having a more detailed area profile and mapping of gambling harm across the borough.”
At a meeting of Knowsley’s cabinet on Wednesday, November 17, council leaders considered the recommendations contained within the report.
The report states: “With a view to trying to protect those most at risk from gambling, the Council’s Licensing service and Public Health team are working to develop a detailed local area profile for Knowsley, which can then be used to determine where in the Borough individuals are most likely to be vulnerable to gambling harm.
“This profile will be completed for each electoral ward and the information will be used to identify local risk areas where there is a greater concentration of people who are vulnerable to gambling harm.
“These areas can then be given special attention in respect of ensuring that any existing gambling premises are compliant with the Act. Resources to assist individuals with gambling problems can also then be targeted at these areas.”
The report was accepted and noted by cabinet and will now go to full council for approval on December 15, with the findings of a more detailed review into the borough’s most vulnerable gambling areas due to be released in Spring 2022.