A KNAPHILL bookmakers have applied for a licence to operate a second betting shop only a few doors from its existing premises in the village.
Coral Racing currently run a bookies at 29A High Street and have acquired another location at number 13, the former branch of HSBC.
Knaphill Residents’ Association secretary Phil Stubbs said: “When we got wind of their licence application, we wrote to Coral head office to ask what exactly they were planning.
“They stated that for the first three months following the opening of their new shop, they will operate the two betting premises, and that if business is good they will retain both shops.”
The licence Corals have applied for includes four fixed-odds ‘casino-type’ betting terminals (FOBT). Slot machines are graded A, B, C and D – with D being a typical pub fruit machine licensed to dish out up to £70. The fixed-odds terminals applied for are B grade, which means they can cough up £500.
Mr Stubbs added: “High Street, Knaphill, isn’t the largest shopping area and one must question whether two betting shops will attract good-quality retailers to the village.
“There is also a great deal of research into the dangers of FOBTs and their impact on households where someone is addicted to gambling.
“The law limits a betting shop to a maximum of four FOBTs, so by having two shops Coral will have eight machines within yards of each other.
“Is this within the spirit of the law? There is a great deal of evidence on the web about the addictive nature of these machines.”
The residents’ association lodged a strong objection with Woking Borough Council but were told it could not be accepted because there are no grounds for the location and the number of bookmakers in a shopping area.
However, Knaphill councillor Melanie Whitehand said: “I am quite concerned about this. I am very sensitive about any shop opening in our High Street.
“I am about to send another objection to the licensing committee.
“We still have vulnerable people in the community from the former Brookwood Hospital, the Priory and Alpha, and I feel there is no justification for another bookmakers.
“It is the vulnerable in particular who get hooked on gambling.”
Surrey County and Knaphill councillor Saj Hussain added: “I am totally opposed to a second bookmakers in our village.
“We really don’t need another premises for gambling – especially when it’s on the same side of the street and just a few yards away from the existing one.”
Coral shops also have a history of being targeted in raids and there are concerns that another gambling business of this type will attract more potentially violent crime.
In December last year, a lone female member of staff was held at knifepoint at the High Street branch during a raid, while an alleged accomplice waited outside.
Both suspects escaped on foot through the rear of the building with a pocketful of cash before making off down Fosters Lane, towards the Highclere Estate.
Fortunately, on this occasion, apart from being frightened and in shock, the victim was not injured.
In March this year, staff and punters at the Coral betting shop in St Johns were held at gunpoint by raiders who fled the scene in a getaway vehicle.