|In statements made in Parliament today, new Prime Minister Gordon Brown has signalled that plans for the UK’s first super casino could be at an end.|
Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions, Brown told the House of Commons that there would be a review of Government policy and that there might be better ways of meeting the economic and social needs of hard-pressed areas rather than creating of a large Las Vegas-style casino.
The northern city of Manchester was surprisingly selected for the UK’s sole super casino in January following recommendations from the independent Casino Advisory Panel (CAP) ahead of the two front-runners, Blackpool and the site of the former Millennium Dome in London.
Regeneration was a major factor in Manchester’s selection and it was thought that CAP’s vote was swayed by the city’s decision to propose its casino for the deprived Eastlands area. This neighbourhood had also seen the construction of the 48,000-seat City Of Manchester Stadium for the 2002 Commonwealth Games along with the Manchester Velodrome and facilities for athletics along with shops, supermarkets and new housing.
Under the Gambling Act of 2005, the super casino was to feature a minimum customer area of 5,000 square metres and up to 1,250 unlimited-jackpot slot machines but faced stiff opposition from anti-gambling campaigners, opposition political parties and religious groups.
'In September we will have a report that will look at gambling in our country, the incidence and prevalence of it and the social effects of it,” said Brown.
'I hope that during these summer months we can look at whether regeneration in the areas for the super casinos may be a better way of meeting their economic and social needs than the creation of super casinos.'
MPs from the Manchester area were urgently seeking talks with Ministers to clarify the issue but Whitehall sources have apparently acknowledged that the super casino scheme is ‘pretty much dead in the water’, and that the Government would still consider options for smaller casinos on which there was greater consensus.
Brown said that another way of regenerating areas included investing in local infrastructure and promised to look at how the Government could help.
'This is an issue on which there is no consensus found in the two Houses of Parliament and it is an issue now subject to reflection over the next few months,” Brown said.
Brown’s statements mark a significant break with former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s policy on casinos as he was in favour of siting a super casino in both Manchester and Blackpool once investment was in place.
'There are serious concerns over the level of scrutiny given to the super casino proposals and it was left to the Liberal Democrats in the House Of Lords to halt the Government's headlong rush to Manchester,” said Don Foster, the Liberal Democrats Spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
'Any decision to go ahead with the super casino proposals must be preceded by detailed scrutiny in Parliament.'