[Case Study] Westminster City Council: Identifying Areas of High Risk

Westminster City Council has one of the London’s most active night-time economy in London. There are approximately 122 establishments across the borough, including casinos. Due to the density and volume of activity Westminster has a strong case for taking a robust approach to ensure that the sector operates in manner which serves in the best interests of the council and its communities.

In 2015, A report supported by Westminster City Council, the Local Government Association, Manchester City Council and carried out by Geofutures entitled, ‘Exploring area-based vulnerability to gambling -related harm: Who is Vulnerable?
examined the implications of applying the issue of vulnerability to measure the harm related to gambling. The report was published to provide further insight into the little known area of risk as it relates to vulnerable groups. There was a need to better understand the Gambling Act 2005 which states that ‘ children and young people should be protected from being harmed or exploited by gambling.’ The report defined gambling related harm as:

Harm or distress of any kind caused or exacerbated by a person’s gambling, and includes personal, social and economic harm suffered by the person, their spouse, partner, family wider community, or in their workplace or society at large. The report examined a range of characteristics identifying who is vulnerable and provided an indication of how these vulnerable characteristics could be translated and applied at a local level to identify areas most at risk within the City of Westminster and the Manchester area.

The introduction of the Operating Licensing Condition of the Gambling Commissions Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice was introduced in April 2016, thus making it a mandatory requirement for operators to take account of borough local area data gathered as part of boroughs Gambling Licensing Policy Statements. This provides a useful tool for boroughs use local risk assessment in their decision making around gambling.

Categorising vulnerable people

The report set out a number of groups considered to be vulnerable in this context these cover the following; Young People; students; mental health; Learning disabilities/difficulties; immigrants; ethnicity; homeless people; multiple deprivation.

In February 2016, the second report, ‘Exploring Area-Based Vulnerability to Gambling-related Harm: Developing the Gambling - Related Harm Risk Index’ took the findings of the previous report a step further by using the data gathered to
develop a harm risk matrix which identified five ‘hotspots areas within the borough, North West (Harrow Road);, Paddington and Edgware Road (North); West End (North); West End (South) and Victoria and Pimlico.

These areas are where the matrix has shown there are high levels of risk associated with gambling related harm for vulnerable populations. Westminster is proposing to determine in their p¬olicy that new or variation applications within these areas will be required to provide a higher level of mitigation to reduce the relevant risk issues in that area.

Westminster’s proposed approach is a radical and innovative one based on data and research that can be validated and used if there is a challenge about the approach the City is taking. Although, its approach will not prevent applications
from new providers, the strong evidence base Westminster has developed provides a useful tool to place higher requirements within those areas considered high risk. The proposed approach will form part of the proposal revised Gambling
Policy for the council and will be subject to public consultation in the summer of 2018.

Geofutures webpages to access the reports: