Fears city will be Las Vegas-style gambling haven

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PLANS for a betting shop threaten the family-friendly atmosphere in part of Sheffield’s city centre, an action group has claimed.

Members of the Sheffield City Centre Residents Action Group, known as SCCRAG, have voiced their objections to proposals for a Coral betting shop which could bring a ‘Las Vegas’ feel to St Paul’s Parade.

The group has stressed it is not opposed to gambling, but believes the location near to the Peace Gardens is inappropriate as it acts as a social hub for Sheffield.

For plans to be given the go-ahead, Sheffield Council must approve a change in use for the space from retail to financial services.

The group fears it could set a dangerous precedent which could transform the area.

Linda Cooley, secretary of SCCRAG, said: “A betting shop is in no way in keeping with the present character. “Gambling is not a family–oriented activity and betting shops are often, unfortunately, connected with anti-social behaviour.

“As the Peace Gardens area is already quite vibrant and one of the liveliest parts of the city, it is difficult to see how a betting shop would enhance the area.

“Changing the classification would be a very dangerous move as this could lead to a complete change in the character of the area. There is ample documentation to show that once betting shops move in, other shops stop coming and the area begins to decline.

“There is a clear example of this, very close to home, in nearby Fitzalan Square.

“This once had a post office, a cinema and a variety of shops but it is now almost entirely populated with ‘financial services’, none of which are banks or building societies.”

There are already 10 betting shops, including Betfred, William Hill, Coral, Ladbrokes and Stanley Racing all within 700-yards walking distance of St Paul’s Parade.

Linda said: “The group feels the tendency to bring ‘Las Vegas’ style entertainment facilities to the shopping centre is slowly destroying its attraction for the average visitor.”

Elias Topping, the Birmingham firm which submitted the application said: “The profile of customers using licensed betting offices continues to evolve, with increased numbers of women using the facilities since deregulation, largely for lottery events.

“Coral adheres to industry guidelines and best practice and seeks to make their units modern, attractive and comfortable thereby forming a part of a modern centre’s amenities.”