Wynberg fights fifth bookie

A fifth bookmaker has applied to open in Wynberg and residents are furious. Bookmakers’ clientele, they say, bring drugs, prostitution and grime with it.

According to the Wynberg Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (WRRA), Gobet has applied to operate from where Betting World is currently situated. Gobet’s owner Jerry Nicholas said Gobet would be replacing Betting World “like for like”.

There are currently four bookmakers operating in Wynberg and residents are battling to get rid of them (“Patrons no sure bet”, Bulletin, June 2).

The WRRA put a copy of the newspaper advert for the application on their website and Facebook page, urging residents to object to the application.

“There are already four bookmakers in the area; Hollywood Bets, Supabets, Olimp and Betting World,” the website said.

“In the past year, the WRRA has received numerous complaints about drug deals and other criminal activities occurring outside local betting shops. Residents were particularly upset about Hollywood Bets on the corner of Main and Langley, which is for all intents and purposes a residential area where families live.

“Interestingly (and ironically), 155 Main Road where Betting World currently is and where Gobet wants to be, is neighbour to the Life Change Centre, a place of worship as well as a facility dedicated to helping and rehabilitating street people with drug and alcohol addiction.”

Residents were quick to voice their displeasure on the Facebook post and talks of a petition were quickly afoot.

At the WRRA annual general meeting on Wednesday October 26, Kristina Davidson said in her chairperson’s report that bookmakers need only apply to the gambling board for permission and notify residents of their intent to open before they would be allowed to operate. Residents said they had not seen the notices for most of the currently operating betting outlets and they therefore opened unopposed.

“They put in a little advert,” Ms Davidson said of one of the establishments, “And then it just opened.”

Ms Davidson said Hollywood Bets, which had opened first, had installed cameras outside the venue, at the request of police: “But the problem continues.”

“The increase in the number of gambling venues is a huge concern to the WRRA,” she said. “It seems to be a magnet for other unsavoury activities. I don’t think it’s good for an area to have an increase in gambling activities.”

But Emma Dove, the manager of Hollywood Bets, told the Bulletin in June that the establishment does not condone criminal activity on its premises and has co-operated with police.

“We are working with police. They asked us to install cameras and we did it in a matter of weeks. The police also do regular raids.”

Evariste Umba, the founder of the Life Change Centre, in Grand Central in the Main Road, said the centre is “strongly” opposed to the gambling outlets in the area.

“I have drafted a letter of objection which will be signed by the senior pastor. We strongly object to it because we are helping addicts here. People are coming to be helped, while around the corner people are being enslaved. It is making our work difficult. Some guys, instead of coming for help, they go straight for the gambling.”

Mr Umba said people have also approached the centre for help with gambling addiction but they were referred to other institutions.

Wynberg police confirmed that there has been an increase in certain crimes in the roads where bookmakers have opened.

“Ebor Road and Langley Road are the most problematic ones with the stolen goods and drugs dealings,” Wynberg police’s Captain Ntombi Nqunqeka said.

She said there was also an increase in motor vehicle thefts in Main Road and robberies in Park Road.

Mr Nicholas said the crime problem Wynberg is experiencing outside the betting shops seems to be unique to the area.

“We have 19 betting shops in other areas and we’ve never had this problem anywhere else,” he said.

He said Gobet would be continuing the good relationship that Betting World had with police.

“They invited police to visit the shop on a regular basis,” he said, adding that Gobet staff had been trained to spot suspicious activity and report it.

“We are just as much against drugs and crime,” he said.