Reading café could be converted into gambling centre

Bru coffee and gelato in Friar Street closed down in March after around three years of operation. Now, the building it occupied could be converted into a bingo venue and gambling centre.

Merkur Slots is a chain gambling business with locations in Bracknell, Basingstoke and Slough. Now it is hoping to open in Reading as well.

Merkur Slots requires both licensing and planning consent from Reading Borough Council to open an adult gaming centre at the premises.

A shopper has expressed concern about the proliferation of gambling establishments in the town centre. Sarah Aldridge from Mortimer, said: “Slot machines are notoriously addictive, and could cause further gambling addiction among vulnerable individuals.

“This can have severe consequences on families and individuals -I speak from experience- causing financial strain, mental health issues and even suicide.”

She then suggested the building should be occupied by a business that would ‘contribute positively’ to the community’s growth and well-being.

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Fellow objector Chris Tait from Caversham called the plan an “insult” to those addicted to gambling and gaming.

However, the council’s licensing team has not objected to the take over, subject to conditions.

Council licensing officer Robert Smalley said: “The Licensing team do not object to this premises.

“This part of town now contains a betting shop and three adult gaming centres, with this premises being a bingo premises, but essentially operating as an adult gaming centre.

“Clustering is not a consideration for the Licensing team when dealing with a Gambling Act premises licence application, and the reality is that these kinds of premises generate very little in the way of noise due to having a very low customer count, even at peak times.”

He added that licensing officers and Merkur Slots are in discussions over agreeing conditions relating to staff training, staff levels and security measures.

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In Friar Street and West Street there are three adult gaming centres, Little Vegas, Admiral Casino and Golden Touch, and one betting shop, Betfred.

In order for the conversion of the cafe into a bingo premises to go ahead, Merkur Slots requires change of use consent from the council.

You can view its change of use application  by typing reference 230908 into the council’s planning portal.

Writing in support of the application, Merkur Slots planning agents Planning Potential stated that the bingo centre would create six to 12 jobs for people in Reading, and argued that its opening would lead to increased footfall in the town centre.

The shopping unit was previously occupied by the Sweatshop running store which closed in the latter half of 2020. Before that, it was used as a First Choice travel store.

Reading Chronicle | Town Centre