Locals objected to the extended hours, saying they were worried about the casino attracting late-night antisocial behaviour. But Lambeth Council granted the venue’s application for a 21-hour licence at a meeting on Thursday 9 February.
The company had originally sought a 24-hour licence but agreed to cut its application to exclude 6am-9am so that the premises would be closed while children were on their way to school.
Alex Butt from local business improvement district WeAreWaterloo said he was worried the rough sleepers in the area would be drawn to the venue late at night.
He told the council licensing meeting: “We’re concerned in terms of the premises attracting vulnerable people. Waterloo has a historic reputation in terms of its rough sleeping population. Because of the numerous arches we have, we do have a higher-than-average street population.
“There will be no premises open aside from the applicant’s premises during the dead of night and we worry this will exploit the vulnerable people that are around that are rough sleepers. I think they will spend whatever funds they have there and that in itself could be a catalyst for antisocial behaviour as well.”
He added: “The lack of evidence for antisocial behaviour up to 11 o’clock doesn’t mean there won’t be issues at 2am, 3am, 4am, 5am. […] There is a risk ultimately that antisocial behaviour will occur. We’re next to a pub. We are next to Leake Street which has the Sidings [shopping centre] opening up. There’s enough factors to make us really concerned about the risk of antisocial behaviour in the dead of night when there’s no businesses open and when residents are trying to sleep.”
Mike Tuppen, a local resident, said he was worried about the customers an all-night casino would attract. He told the meeting: “I’ve not come across one person who wants this licence. Where are the clientèle going to come from? They’re not going to come from Waterloo.
“Bringing people into the area that don’t fit into what our vision is of Waterloo and Lower Marsh. Lower Marsh is not a high street. We’re not like Lewisham High Street or Walworth Road or anything like that.”
But Philip Kolvin KC representing Merkur Slots said the company had systems in place to prevent crime and antisocial behaviour. He told the meeting: “There’s good surveillance inside and out. There’s strict rules including you can’t bring alcohol into my client’s premises and of course alcohol is not served there. The demographic of the customer base is broadly fifty-fifty male:female, and quite a mature one… The relatively low numbers using the premises simultaneously [aides] supervision.”
As part of the venue’s late-night licence, it will have to control entry to the casino with a strong magnetic lock after midnight. Cllr Fred Cowell, chair of the council licensing committee, said he hoped the restriction would prevent antisocial behaviour.
Cllr Cowell, Labour member for West Dulwich, said: “While we were persuaded that there were distinct issues in relation to ASB [antisocial behaviour] that would arise from the nature of the local area and the specific configuration of businesses there, as well as the presence of vulnerable adults in the area, the condition in relation to the control of access to premises through the operation of the maglock [magnetic lock] was more than proportionate a response to dealing with those specific concerns.”
Merkur Slots on Lower Marsh currently opens until 11pm. The meeting heard that the venue still needs to get planning permission from the council before it can operate until 6am.