A BINGO hall and amusement arcade in Worcester have been accused of using a loophole in the law to increase the amount of high pay-out gambling machines they are allowed.

The Gala Bingo Hall, in Foregate Street, and Shipley’s Amusement Centre, which has arcades in Foregate Street and Angel Street, have applied to split their premises.

The move would allow them to apply for additional licences – and therefore more machines – even if the different areas are in the same building. Shipley’s wants to split into four separate premises, which would entitle it to four times the amount of machines paying out £500, while the Gala Bingo Hall wants to split into two – thereby doubling its quota.

Under the Gambling Act 2005, only four machines paying £500 are allowed in a single premises.

Worcester city councillor Joy Squires spoke out after the issue was raised at a licensing committee meeting. She said: “This wasn’t what this Act was all about. It was about restricting access to these machines, not the proliferation of these machines because of a loophole.”

“At the moment, in Worcester, there are queues of people waiting to use these machines and that regulates the number of people because they can’t stand there all night.

“You can see why they want to do it but it’s against the spirit of the law.”

Coun Squires insisted she was not anti-gambling and added: “My father was a bookie but because of that, I’ve also seen the other side of gambling.”

At a meeting of Worcester City Council’s licensing committee, councillors heard officers were powerless to refuse the applications, but would insist the businesses created head- height partitions to distinguish between areas.

Some local authorities only require different coloured carpets.

The committee agreed to write to the Gambling Commission about its concerns as part of a public consultation being held about the Act.

A spokeswoman for Gala Coral could not confirm if more machines would be installed but said the company had gone through the correct channels for its licences.

No one from Shipley’s was available to comment.