South London residents have blasted plans for an adult gaming centre to be open 24 hours a day, saying it could encourage “drug dealing” and will drive the town centre “into the gutter”.

Bexley Council has received plans to extend the opening hours for an adult gaming centre in Welling town centre to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The business, called Merkur Slots, is currently allowed to be open from 9am to 11pm, after it was given permission to be converted from a betting shop to a gaming centre in August 2020.

Council documents said that the Gaming Act 2005 defines gaming machines as machines designed to allow individuals to gamble, and are also known as slot machines.

Several objections to the plans were received from households in the surrounding area.

Locals said there was already a history of crime and disorderly conduct nearby, and were worried the plans would encourage gambling addiction.

One objection was summarised in council documents as: “Concerns with anti-social behaviour e.g. littering, loitering, noise disturbance, drug dealing, graffiti, fly tipping and the alleyway next to the betting shop being used as a toilet.”

Council officers said in their report that there was no demonstrable evidence that the extended hours would cause any significant increase in anti-social behaviour.

They also said that the business was willing to be given permission to open 24/7 on a temporary basis, to allow the council to monitor any potential complaints.

They said: “If significant local objections are received it may be considered prudent to allow permission for unrestricted opening hours to be undertaken for a trial period of 12 months.

"This would enable the management to demonstrate the premises can be operated without material detriment to the local amenity and give the [local planning authority] the opportunity to re-evaluate the situation should issues arise.”

Conservative Councillor Nigel Betts, who represents the Falconwood and Welling ward for Bexley Council, said in council documents that he was “appalled” by the application.

He said he did not consider Welling to be a “24/7 town centre” and hoped it never would be.

Cllr Betts said: “Gambling is a blight on our local community and should not be encouraged.

"What possible justification is there to make this establishment a 24-hour operation other than to prey on those who are abdicated [sic] to gaming machines and other forms of betting? We want Welling to be a vibrant shopping centre and not be driven down in to the gutter by this sort of development.”

Council documents said that Merkur Slots had sent an operational management plan to outline how noise would be controlled in the space.

They said customers will be asked to be respectful of neighbours when going outside to smoke or leaving the gaming centre.

They added: “Individuals who are deemed to be under the influence of excessive alcohol shall not be allowed to enter the premises.

"A notice will be placed that is visible from the exterior of the premises stating that drinking of alcohol directly outside the premises is forbidden and that those who do so will be banned from the premises.”

The plan to extend the opening hours of Merkur Slots in Welling will be discussed at a planning committee meeting for Bexley Council on August 3.