New report warns of flawed casino dream

Dreams of a rejuvenated Blackpool through Las Vegas-style casinos are seriously flawed and could damage the resort’s economy, a new study has warned.

Profits would go abroad, jobs would go to migrant workers and the number of problem gamblers would escalate, according to the independent report by consultants Hall Aitken.

But Blackpool Council has hit back at the study and says its research shows the town will benefit if it wins the UK‘s much sought after first regional casino licence next year.

Leader Roy Fisher said today: „This report is inaccurate – a casino would have clear benefits for Blackpool.“
But anti-casino campaigner Coun Steven Bate said: „Everyone in Blackpool is obsessed about the fact that this will be a good thing but there is a lot of evidence to suggest it won’t be.

„I hope the council will take heed of this report, but I don’t suppose it will.“
The report claimed a casino would not change the resort’s pattern of seasonal employment, fewer jobs would be created than anticipated, and more than 6,000 problem gamblers would be generated costing an additional GBP 15m a year to deal with.
It also claims any profits created would return to overseas shareholders.

The report says: „Regional casino development in Blackpool is unlikely to achieve all that is claimed for it, but little analysis appears to have been undertaken so far into its potential downsides, particularly the social impacts.“
One of the report’s authors, economic consultant Paul Buchanan, said: „These vast casinos will produce a range of social and economic impacts that the Government has not even started to consider.

„Some are obvious but have never been adequately measured, such as increased problem gambling. Others are more subtle – the displacement of spend from other leisure industries, the fact that the jobs created will almost certainly be temporary and will go to immigrants.“
Coun Bate added: „My stance is based on examples from around the world.

„As casinos have spread in America there has been a real detrimental impact on other businesses. People can only spend their money once and if they spend it in a casino other businesses will lose out.“

But Coun Fisher said Blackpool Council was still determined to win the coveted race for the casino prize.
He said: „The over-riding factor must be that 45 local authorities, including major cities up and down the country, are vying for this much sought after regeneration prize. There is therefore a well-accepted and very real assumption that a regional casino is a key regenerator.
„A regional casino would be like a grain of sand making a pearl – it would start the process of creating something much bigger and better. Thousands of higher paid, year-round jobs would be created.“

Dennis Taylor, chief executive of Lancashire Economic Partnership, said: „The whole of Lancashire is behind the Blackpool bid. It is the only logical location for an exciting initiative of this nature.“

Dr Jim Twomey, author of an economic study of the impact of a casino on Blackpool regeneration, said: „This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Blackpool that will deliver longer-term benefits for the local economy.“