ONGOING concerns about the "clustering" of betting shops which drain hundreds of thousands of pounds from some of Haringey's most deprived communities was put under scrutiny on Wednesday.

Haringey Council's overview and scrutiny committee called the investigation into the clustering of betting shops in order to gather evidence on the effects it has on the community and how the authority can gain more power over refusing planning applications.

The committee made clear the inquiry was not anti-gambling, but rather opposed to an over-saturation and constraints within the Gambling Act 2005 which advises local authorities to "aim to permit" applications.

Representations were heard from Ladbrokes and William Hill, whose head office is based in Wood Green, GamCare, the Gambling Commission, Haringey police and resident's associations.

Councillor David Winskill (Lib Dem/Crouch End), who chaired the meeting, said: "We just finished a six-hour meeting and it was a means to give everyone who is affected by this issue an opportunity what their concerns are.

"The problem for us is that the legislation we are working with has put hurdles that are so low in place that bookmakers can easily jump over them and leave councils in a difficult position. I feel we covered a lot of ground today and now it's a case of waiting for the report."

Haringey is home to more than 65 betting shops and gaming parlours filled with slot-machines but are concentrated in three key areas: Wood Green town centre, Tottenham, and Green Lanes.

It is one of only four local authorities, another of which is neighbouring Hackney Council, in the entire country who have raised concerns about the proliferation of gambling shops.

Only ten gambling shops can be found in Haringey's affluent west side such as Muswell Hill, Crouch End and Highgate.

But representations from the gaming industry said their was no conspiracy to exploit poor people and said that the location of shops was driven only by market forces and creating a supply that matched the demand.

Fed-up residents have counted a saturation of 13 bookmakers and arcades between Turnpike Lane Tube station and Wood Green Tube station which they complained is killing the vibrancy of the area, driving up rents and encouraging criminal and nuisance behaviour.

Bookshops like Waterstones and Ottakers were both forced out of the area after being unable to make enough profit to survive.

Women have complained about men, who tend to be the primary users of the betting shops, loitering outside of shops smoking and drinking and making lewd comments as they walk past.

One concerned resident said: "A hairdressing shop is not likely to get held up by armed robbers or have a cash-in-transit vehicle ambushed outside. It doesn't have angry customers beating up machines when they've lost money. It just wouldn't happen. If bookmakers attract this type of behaviour, why must communities have so many of them?"

Tottenham MP David Lammy whose constituency is home to the largest number of bookmakers has also been in talks with Greg Clarke, Government minister for decentralisation, in ways to give local authorities more power.

One possibility discussed was introducing legislation that would allow each ward to set priorities for its community which could include limiting numbers of one specific type of business.