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Regional Casinos – Twist or Bust?
by Marc W Etches

Regional Casinos – Twist or Bust?

“Last Friday, the Government’s independent Casino Advisory Panel made available the applications it has received from local authorities seeking the opportunity to license one or more of the 17 new style casinos. It will announce a short-list in two weeks time.

Of the 27 local authorities seeking a regional casino only one will ultimately prevail. Blackpool is apparently the favourite, but so was Paris; no comfort there then!

Will London beat the odds and match its 2012 Olympic bid success? Actually, with 6 applications from local authorities within commuting distance the odds of that happening are not bad. Wales has two candidates, Scotland three. What about Sheffield or Hull? Interesting, but how has it got to this?

The quality and depth of the submissions may vary but it is clear that 27 local authorities disagree with Hall Aitken, the Glasgow consultants rightly mauled at a recent Conservative seminar over their anonymously commissioned report that claims regional casinos will not deliver regeneration.

With one regional casino representing upwards of £300m of investment and 2000+ jobs, as well as the opportunity to leverage significant levels of positive community engagement it is totally bizarre that politics is contriving to stifle economic regeneration in areas that both need and clearly want it.

Still, those following the overly protracted and painful birth of the Gambling Act 2005 should be very familiar with the bizarre.

Professor Collins of Salford University concludes that the only wrong number of regional casinos is one. Indeed, how can one offer a satisfactory test of social impact in a number of different locations? And before Cockspur Street erupts with indignation claiming it to be a test of seventeen, the fact is a regional casino is hugely different to a large and certainly a small casino. This should surprise no-one, least of all those within the Department of Culture; the Act sets out to ensure it will be so.

This certainly cannot be claimed to be a test of 17. There are casinos being developed under existing legislation that will out-size new ‘large’ and ‘small’ casinos.

Those of us that live and work outside Westminster (and Fleet Street, or wherever they are these days!) are more or less sensible and pragmatic about most things, including gambling. After all the vast majority of us participate and do so without getting into difficulties.

There are nine English regions, Scotland and Wales - one regional casino each, located within the context of Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies subject to willing communities, job done. Oh would that it had been that simple!

There did seem to be a time when even the Daily Mail had settled for eight ‘super casinos’ - a complete misnomer of course as 1250 slot machines is not large by international standards and only marginally ensures the additional hotel and leisure facilities that generate significant numbers of jobs.

What if the minimum size of customer floor space required of a regional casino was raised? What if mandatory conditions were placed on casino operators to assist in the education of responsible gambling?

In a situation, where there are so many willing communities and several willing investors surely there must be room for negotiation. But with the Government insisting those in Opposition must take the initiative and the Opposition refusing to discuss such matters with local authorities, what’s to be done?

The truth is a toxic mix of party politics, business self-protectionism and not a little misinformation is likely to prove fatal to the regeneration dreams of 26 local communities, some of whom may not get a second chance.”

Words 595

Marc W Etches
Insight
7 May 2006

Date Posted: 11-May-2006



 
 
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