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London gambles with Chinatown's future

Thursday, October 10, 2013 - 02:02

Oct 10 - London's Chinatown is one of the oldest and most visited in the world but it could be under threat. As Ciara Sutton reports betting shops are pushing out the restaurants against the wishes of many in the famous city centre hub.

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London's Soho - home to one of the world's oldest and biggest Chinatowns. But amongst the sea of restaurants, there's a new resident - the betting shop. REUTERS REPORTER CIARA SUTTON, SAYING: "This street is the thoroughfare that runs through the heart of Chinatown, and this closed down restaurant could be its tenth betting shop. That's something Chinese community leaders say could dramatically affect the landscape of the whole area." If the plans are approved xxxx will move in next to Betfred, Paddy Power and Ladbrokes. Even those already in the gaming business aren't impressed. Simon Thomas runs London's Hippodrome Casino. (SOUNDBITE) CEO OF LONDON'S HIPPODROME CASINO, SIMON THOMAS, SAYING: "The book makers have negotiated a very hard form of gambling machine, which we're not even allowed in a real casino. They have a £100 a go slot machines, we have £2 a go slot machines, it makes no sense. The triggers for problem gamblers aren't how much you can win, it's how much you can stake and how quickly you get a result, the actual prize is almost irrelevant. The roulette down here works on about a 2 minute cycle. These machines - you can play roulette on a 20 second cycle. So around 6 times faster." Betting shops see Chinatown as a good source of revenue. Many Chinese people are known to like a flutter And there's plenty of passing trade in this crowded heart of the city. Christine Yau is from Chinatown's Community Centre. (SOUNBITE) CHAIRMAN OF THE CHINATOWN COMMUNITY CENTRE, CHRISTINE YAU, SAYING: "We hope that Chinatown will remain here for another 500 years another 5000 years. It should be that way and it is part of London. So by allowing more betting shops to come to Chinatown, it destroys Chinatown and the Chinese culture, and the heritage all together." The Association of British Bookmakers says it's simply responding to demand. But the local Westminster council is seeking more powers to try and halt the spread of betting shops. And those in Chinatown with a taste for tradition hope they succeed.

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London gambles with Chinatown's future

Thursday, October 10, 2013 - 02:02