Two local authorities are the first in the UK to map people at risk of gambling-related harm in their communities.

Westminster and Manchester City Councils teamed up with independent research company Geofutures, which specialises in statistical analysis and mapping of complex data, to produce the report.

The councils worked with the support of the Local Government Association (LGA) to identify and map at-risk individuals within the two areas after having similar concerns about gambling.

The research maps areas where people are at greater risk of harm by looking at local patterns of key factors in vulnerability such as mental health and unemployment. It also maps the location of homeless shelters and drug and alcohol treatment centres.

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The final publication is the second phase of the research, with the first looking at which groups are more vulnerable to gambling related harm.

It is hoped the new information will help make it easier to understand the potential impact a bookmakers has on the surrounding area, and help the local authority make more informed decisions about new outlets.

'A great chance to protect vulnerable people'

it also comes before a change to regulations on April 6, which will require all gambling premises to prepare a local area risk assessment.

Heather Wardle, from Geofutures, said: “Our maps show the places in Westminster and Manchester where those people most at risk from gambling harm are likely to be.

“This gives both local authorities and any gambling operators a unique opportunity to use this insight in their local area risk assessments.

“There is a great chance here for new policies and procedures to be put in place to protect vulnerable people in each area.”

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The new regulations being introduced later this year could result in gambling operators putting in place more staff to spot those struggling with gambling, adding more security staff, changing opening hours, or offering financial support to care providers in an area. Operators could also engage as a group with local police or give individuals the ability to self-exclude across a local community.

Cllr Nickie Aiken, head of Westminster’s licensing committee, said: “This is a really valuable piece of research that will help us to address gambling related harm in our communities.

“We are not against the gambling industry per se, but we think that it is important to understand the impact on areas in which they operate. It is in the best interests of those running gambling premises to reduce these negative impacts.

“This research is a major step forward – it will make for better local decisions and help deliver real practical change to people's lives.”

And Cllr Tony Page, the GLA licensing spokesman added: “Licensing authorities and gambling operators all have a responsibility to help protect those who are vulnerable to harm from gambling, and this ground-breaking research will be of huge assistance in ensuring their efforts to protect people are properly targeted.”

The Westminster report and maps can be viewed here .