I think they add nothing to the community and in fact create problems. Firstly at a domestic level it is quite obvious that these places are taking money away from families that badly need it. Often situated in very run-down areas it is painful to see guys (and it is, as far as I can see, exclusively guys who use these places) spending hours and small fortunes in these places while women in the grocery shop next door are trying to negotiate a few pence discount on their children's food (and I have seen this too, several times). Of course I can't presume to know any individual's family situation and it is absolutely not the case that I blame gambling addiction, which is it's own serious problem, for childhood poverty although clearly in some cases there are links. I believe the government should be addressing child poverty directly. But tackling gambling addiction is also something the government should be doing, and to do that while allowing these establishments to proliferate is clearly a hypocritical plan.
Secondly they are an issue for everyone in the community because many guys treat these places like pubs or bars. The one nearest me on the corner of Cowper and Matthias Roads normally has a group of guys sat outside drinking cans of beer and smoking. They create litter and regularly there are scuffles and shouting. This is of course exactly the same place where the local "hoodies" gather so what kind of example is being set to young people about how to behave in public?
People may argue that individuals can choose whether to visit these places or not but the bare fact remains that there are no local swimming baths or public tennis courts. Where exactly is the choice? If you cut back on the number of betting shops the choice to visit them or not would remain but people would have to travel further to get to them and many people wouldn't bother.
Writing this I worry that my views are somehow classist - that my middle class background causes me to react negatively to something which is essentially a form of working class entertainment. Could I argue that opera (though I should point out I'm not that middle class, I've been to a lot more betting shops than operas in my life) is just as much of a waste of time and energy? People certainly spend a great deal of money going to the opera and come out sometimes having drunk too much and creating a public nuisance. Well I probably could, but then there are differences. For instance much as enthusiasts might call themselves opera addicts, I'm not aware of anyone who's ever been known to spend most of the day, most days at the opera. And opera houses are generally welcoming to women and to some extent children. Ladbrokes attitude towards women is I think neatly encapsulated in their advertising images, such as the one pictured here.
Anyway all that's being considered here is whether local people should be entitled to object to these places and have their voices heard and responded to. I went onto the Ladbrokes website and they have nine branches withing a mile of my house, William Hill have ten. And the one I mentioned earlier on Cowper Road is neither of those chains, it's a different one! If anything is classist it's the attitude of the government in putting the gambling mega-corporations executives "needs" ahead of the needs and wishes of local people.