A Formal bid for permission to open a casino has been launched by Sevenoaks District Council.
After weeks of speculation the authority has been revealed as one of 68 across the country competing for 17 new casinos planned by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Councillors have thrown their hat in the ring for one of eight ’small‘ casinos included in the national quota, to be brought in on the back of recently relaxed gaming laws.
Although categorised as small, under terms set out by the Casino Advisory Panel, a Sevenoaks casino would have a minimum customer area of 750sq m with up to 80 category B gaming machines, each with a maximum jackpot of £4,000.
The news follows whispers that the closure-threatened Sevenoaks Playhouse had been earmarked as a possible site for a gambling den – a rumour vehemently denied by Playhouse chiefs in last week’s Chronicle.
And SDC spokesman Daniel Whitmarsh made it clear no site had been identified for a future gambling establishment.
He said: „The council has submitted a proposal to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for a small casino under the 2005 Gambling Act.
„We have said at this stage that we would welcome, in principle, a small casino in the district although no specific site has been identified at the moment.“
On a national level, gambling bosses have been licking their lips at the prospect of making big bucks out of affluent middle class populations based in sleepy commuter towns and suburbs.
However, a spokesman for the British Casino Association said he could not comment on the potential impact of a casino in Sevenoaks, as it was not the organisation’s policy to discuss individual applications.
Increasingly liberal attitudes towards gambling and an expansion of the gaming industry have provoked a frosty response from pressure groups.
Major Anthony Cotterill, divisional commander of the Salvation Army in the south east, said an expansion of gambling opportunities was likely to lead to an increase in problem gambling, rises in crime, debt and other associated social problems.
He added: „We would challenge the local authority to produce any research they have done into the likely social impact of a casino on the community.“
Over the next few weeks the Casino Panel will compile a shortlist of authorities from the 68 applicants and enter into a further selection process over the summer.