Medway Council will this week invite owners of local licensed betting and gaming premises to a meeting to seek agreement for a voluntary code on gambling.
The move is part of ongoing efforts to prevent a small minority of gamblers from getting into a spiral of debt to feed their addiction, including the use of fixed odds betting terminals.

In January representatives from all political parties on Medway Council met with the Gambling Commission and agreed a voluntary code would be the most effective way to reduce the risk of customers getting into financial difficulties.

In the months since the council has been researching the best way forward, including the approach followed by other local authorities across the UK. If agreement is reached this will among the first voluntary codes of its type in the country.
Cllr Mike O’Brien, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Customer Contact, has written to the Association of British Bookmakers, local betting shops, bingo halls and licensed amusement arcades inviting them to a meeting next month to discuss the setting up of a voluntary code and how it would work in practice.

The discussions will focus on ways to tackle the problem of addiction to fixed odds betting terminals, which is causing some customers to get into debt, and to promote responsible gambling.An initial discussion has already taken place with the business led Safer Medway Partnership, whose existing shop radio scheme could provide a template for dealing with problem gamblers.

Businesses are able to share information, including photographs, of people barred from entering shops and restaurants after committing a criminal offence or causing a nuisance.This could be extended to betting shops and gaming centres to prevent access to customers whose betting and gambling habits are identified by staff as a cause for concern. Cllr O’Brien , said: “Medway is leading the way in attempting to tackle this problem. While some councils have gone down the legal route to deal with local gaming and betting issues, we believe that a partnership approach will prove the best way forward.

“If we can get agreement, this would be one of the first voluntary codes in the country. We believe it offers a real opportunity for the Medway gaming and betting trade to show that it takes problem gambling seriously.”