Super-casino profits „will go overseas“

New research claiming a Birmingham super-casino would fail to meet regeneration targets because profits from the multi-million pound venture would be returned to overseas investors has been dismissed by the Government.

Sports Minister Richard Caborn described claims in a report by economic consultants Hall Aitken as „rubbish“.

The report warns that estimates by local authorities of positive benefit to local communities from the development of casinos were „potentially misleading“.

Most of the jobs created by a casino would go to people from outside the immediate area, chiefly to low-paid European immigrants, Hall Aitken claimed.

However, Mr Caborn, speaking in a Commons debate, said the report was „biased to an extent that is unacceptable“.

His comments were backed by Birmingham MP Roger Godsiff (Lab Sparkbrook & Small Heath), who said proposals for a super-casino at a new Birmingham City Football Club stadium and sports village would „bring millions of pounds worth of regeneration“.

Birmingham City and Las Vegas Sands, the preferred casino operator, say the total investment in the Birmingham Sports Village will be more than £340 million, up to 20,000 jobs could be created and the city council will be paid an annual dividend of up to GBP 5 million.

Mr Godsiff added: „Birmingham has missed out on too many occasions in the past. We should not let this chance slip through our fingers.“

The Hall Aitken report warns: „The most significant impact to note is that, without a shadow of a doubt, if casinos owned by large American corporations make huge profits, of course those profits will head back over the Atlantic.“

Hall Aitken also warned of significant social costs in the form of gambling addiction that would be triggered by a super-casino.

The report focuses on Birmingham and Blackpool as two potential locations for the first regional casino, which will depend on an expansion of slot machines and gaming tables with unlimited stakes and prizes.

Birmingham City Council is considering which of two options to recommend to a Government panel – a super-casino at the National Exhibition Centre, or the Birmingham City FC scheme.

Hall Aitken predicted a super-casino in Birmingham could increase the number of problem gamblers in the city to 25,000, resulting in an additional cost to the taxpayer of GBP 59 million.

This would outweigh any perceived economic benefits, it is claimed.

One of the report’s authors, economic consultant Paul Buchanan, said: „The case for casino expansion has largely been made on the basis of market demand, in that ‚if you build it they will come‘.

„Yet 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. But others are more subtle and yet equally significant – the displacement of spend from other leisure industries, the fact that the jobs created will almost certainly be temporary and will go to immigrants from the newer members of the European Union.“

Hall Aitken’s findings contrast with a report earlier this week by Birmingham property consultants CB Richard Ellis, which predicted a regional casino at the NEC would generate huge tourism and economic benefits including about 7,000 jobs.