By Christine Lavelle
AN Edinburgh chippy has been cheating gambling laws right under the noses of policemen who use the takeaway.
The Deep Sea, at the top of Leith Walk, still owns and operates a fruit machine, even though a new law was brought in last year, banning non-gambling premises from having them.
But – while the machine continued to be used on a regular basis – officers based around the corner at Gayfield Police Station have not spotted it.
They are even said to regularly pop in to the chippy to grab a bite to eat, but none have ever mentioned the machine.
However, in the past month, the Lothian and Borders force has been praised for tackling the illegal use of gaming machines in partnership with the Gambling Commission’s initiative ‘Operation Cobra’.
They have raided businesses in Selkirk, Galashiels and Hawick, and the force’s licensing inspector Gordon Hunter said they would continue to gather intelligence on any other businesses said to be breaking the law.
Until July last year, non-gambling premises like chip shops, cafes and taxi offices were granted permission to operate these machines, but a change in the law made it illegal in a bid to ensure children and vulnerable people would not be exposed to gambling.
But a number of businesses have ignored that ban, continuing to operate fruit machines.
‘Gateway to other problems’
Andy Todd, from the RCA Trust – a Scotland-wide organisation which helps gambling addicts, said: “There are an estimated 235,000 gaming machines in the UK so there are bound to be a large number of unregistered ones being operated illegally.
“Fruit machines can be a gateway to other problems and may trigger a gambling addiction.
“A lot of young people gather at chip shops and other places that can have these machines.
“If they start playing them it could be a step in the wrong direction.
“Gambling causes similar problems to drink and drugs, such as homelessness, crime, bankruptcy and even suicide.”
Pasquale Bianchi, owner of The Deep Sea, said his staff bought the machine while he was away on holiday and did not realise it was illegal.
He said he would get rid of it straight away.
A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said: “Operation Cobra focused on the Scottish Borders.
“We will continue to work with our partners at the Gambling Commission to identify premises that display gaming machines without a permit.”