Britain tightens rules on high street betting shops

LONDON, April 30 Wed Apr 30, 2014 8:17am EDT

LONDON, April 30 (Reuters) - The British government announced measures on Wednesday to tighten controls on betting shops and the high stakes gambling machines that are one of their main attractions.

The machines account for around 1.5 billion pounds of annual revenues for British bookmakers including William Hill, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power.

Local councils will be able to refuse applications by bookmakers to open new shops on the high street in a change to planning laws, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said.

Customers who want to spend more than 50 pounds ($84) on high stakes machines will be required to pay over the counter in shops before they play, rather than being able to feed the money in directly.

The betting industry has been fighting a rearguard action against critics who claim the machines, offering games like roulette, fuel problem gambling. There have also been criticisms that too many betting shops are clustered in close proximity to each other on high streets. ($1 = 0.5936 British Pounds) (Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by John Stonestreet)