Chingford News

Fourth gambling venue in Chingford road sparks fears for vulnerable people

The mother of a Chingford man who died while struggling with a gambling addiction has spoken out against the business
By Victoria Munro

The new MERKUR Slots in Chingford Mount (credit: MERKUR)
The new MERKUR Slots in Chingford Mount (credit: MERKUR)

The opening of a fourth gambling venue in a tiny radius in Chingford has sparked concerns about the impact on vulnerable people.

This week, MERKUR Slots opened a £200,000 “entertainment centre” in Old Church Road in Chingford Mount, only a few minutes walk from three existing bookies.

The company has spent more than £10million this year opening new venues in high streets across the country and boasts that the new shop is “creating ten new local jobs”.

However, Pamela Mitchell, 72, whose son took his own life in his Chingford home in 1998 while struggling with a gambling addiction, fears the business will prey on the area’s most vulnerable.

She told the Echo: “My son stole from me twice in two years to feed his addiction to these machines. People can get so engrossed that they don’t stop playing until all their money is gone.

“When he died, he had not been at work for a month and he had drawn all his money out of his bank account. In his flat, I found a letter from a bingo hall offering him a gold membership because he was such a good customer.”

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On MERKUR’s website the company acknowledges that gambling “can cause a problem for a minority of players” and that they “aim to prevent problem gambling and underage access”.

Measures in place include requiring photo ID “to gain entry to over-18 areas” and leaflets with advice on safe gambling around the venue and in the toilets.

A MERKUR spokesperson said: “We ensure the very highest standards to deliver a safe gambling entertainment experience for all our customers. Our staff are fully trained and always on hand to lend support if customers show signs of, or feel the need to, take a break.

“We have set new standards of player protection with the launch of 360 – a programme that has been developed following close consultation with the Global Gambling Guidance Group (G4).

“Their accreditation programme helps organisations to establish a responsible gambling culture and implement initiatives that minimise the harms caused by problem gambling.”

However, Pamela said she was sceptical whether such measures would be effective, adding: “Banks help people manage their money, these places want people to come in and gamble their money away.”

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