A new gambling venue in Deptford would put children and vulnerable people at risk, while having a severe impact on local traders, an amenity society has said.  

Merkur Slots has applied for a bingo licence for a vacant building at 40 Deptford High Street.  

It comes after a licence for gaming centre Palace Amusements was approved in November - if the latest application is granted it would mean there will be four gambling businesses within a row of about 30 shops. 

The Deptford Society has objected to the licence being granted on two grounds - preventing gambling from being a source of crime and disorder, and protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.  

The objection states that the New Cross ward “already suffers levels of anti-social behaviour that are almost twice the level recorded overall in Lewisham borough, and more than twice the national average”.  

“Recorded crimes of every type except shoplifting are consistently much higher in New Cross than the average across the borough, and it has the third highest level of crime of all the borough's wards. 

“Deptford High Street has existing high levels of anti-social behaviour and ongoing problems with street drinking and drug dealing. 

“The detrimental impact this has to our community is keenly felt by residents and traders, so much so that officers from the local Safer Neighbourhoods Team have told us they conduct a monthly walkabout on Deptford High Street with licensing officers from Lewisham Council to try and address the problem,” members wrote.  

They said the monthly walkabouts “clearly indicate” a direct relationship between these problems and existing licensed activities, with street drinkers and drug dealers regularly gathering outside those premises.  

The Deptford Society said the anti-social behaviour has a “severe” impact on nearby shops and traders, while another gambling venue “will exacerbate this problem” and undermine Deptford High Street’s “reputation as a family-friendly shopping destination”. 

The objection cites statistics on child poverty in the area - in Evelyn ward, 30 per cent of children live in low income families and in New Cross the figure is 28 per cent, “double the figure reported across Lewisham borough and the national average”. 

“A business that exists solely to encourage gambling, and that has the potential to operate on a 24/7 basis, would not be a welcome addition to an environment in which poverty is already highly visible.  

“The proposed premises is in close proximity to two primary schools and a secondary school; another secondary school and a college are within a short walk of the site.  

“During lunchtime and after school, large numbers of unsupervised pupils from both secondary schools come to the High Street for refreshment and to socialise,” the objection states.  

The Society also raised concerns about vulnerable adults who could be at risk of gambling and falling into “uncontrolled debt”.  

A Merkur spokesperson said: “We believe that this is a good opportunity to bring this important site, a closed venue in the heart of the town centre back into commercial use.  

“Our application, if approved, will create new local jobs and represents much-needed investment in the high street at a challenging time. 
“We are committed to being a socially responsible operator and deliver high standards of consumer protection – delivered through our independently audited 360 Social Responsibility Programme.” 

Lewisham Council will decide on the application on a date yet to be set.