Municipalities around Barcelona also shield against bingos and gambling halls

More city councils follow in the footsteps of the capital to combat addictions as neighbourhood protests emerge

Jordi Ribalaygue
2 min
Badalona studies a moratorium on the granting of permits and restrict new openings.

BadalonaBadalona's new bingo - the sixth recreational hall in the city - will have within a 400-metre radius four educational centers, two mental health services and, right opposite, a soup kitchen. The business will be located between the neighbourhoods of Llefià and Sant Roc, one of the points with the highest poverty rate in the area around Barcelona. "We have many social problems and also security and anti-social behaviour issues. Putting it [the bingo] here is a time bomb. It will bring more misery to many families and more difficulties in an area hit hard by the crisis," says Ignacio Segura, of the platform Stop Cases de Apuestas a Llefià, which brings together entities and communities against the establishment.

The bingo would not have been allowed in Barcelona, as it would not comply with the minimum distances the City Council has recently imposed. At the same time, the capital has banned any new gambling halls or bingo from opening; should any of the 51 establishments currently open across the city close, they will not be replaced either. The metropolitan area is making a move before the growing unease gambling halls spread and the addiction they are driving mainly among the young and disadvantaged.

As a result of complaints, Badalona is now studying a moratorium on the granting of permits and drafting a restrictive ordinance for new openings. Montcada i Reixac has moved forward by approving that no betting house is within one kilometre from a public facility. Territory councillor Jordi Sànchez admits that, in part, the capital's veto has forced them to shield against a possible dispersion of businesses to the periphery. "Everything that does Barcelona affects us," he says.

In parallel, Santa Coloma de Gramenet has adopted the same measures as Barcelona. El Prat de Llobregat and Sabadell have suspended granting licenses for a year until they pass new regulation on the sector, and Terrassa, Cerdanyola, Esplugues and Sant Adrià are also considering making it difficult to set up gambling halls.

In any case, Catalonia limits the number of arcades, unlike Madrid, where gambling houses proliferate in working class neighbourhoods. The four casinos - in addition to the six of the future Hard Rock complex in Vila-seca- along with the 127 existing gambling halls have reached the limit. On the other hand, there are 12 licenses to be distributed to reach the 75 bingos set as a limit. In addition to the 55 currently in operation, eight have an authorisation to open - in addition to Badalona, there will be one Mollet, Berga, Rubí, Castelló d'Empúries, Valls, Tarragona and Tàrrega - and two applications in Tarragona and Blanes are pending review.

In Mollet, the works to open its first bingo have been met with protests. The municipal ordinance prevents it from being set up in inhabited areas and less than 100 metres from an educational or health center, but the establishment is exempt from the prohibitions: it is near the highway and 180 meters from a school. The city councils of Badalona and Mollet allege that they have their hands tied because it is the Generalitat who grants opening permits. The Department of Economy clarifies that, to apply for authorisation, companies must submit a town planning certificate from the local council certifying the recreational use of the premises.