Eleven giant casinos are a safer bet, says expert

One of the UK‘s leading experts on gambling yesterday called for the government’s advisory panel to allow 11 supercasino licences.

Professor Peter Collins, an eminent academic, criticised the current policy which allows just one regional casino in the UK.

The government’s advisory panel will shortly decide the location of the sole regional or resort casino. Glasgow is widely regarded as a front runner in the selection process.

Professor Collins, director of Salford University’s centre for the study of gambling and commercial gaming, made the remarks during a pioneering conference on responsible gambling.

The seminar at Glasgow’s Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre was the first event of its kind to be held in Scotland and brought together MSP‘s, councillors, civil servants, key members of the business community and charity representatives.

Professor Collins said: „I do not know of anyone who thinks that one licence is the right amount. There is no cogent argument which justifies having just one licence.

„Having 11 regional casinos, which would mean one per region, would be better. I don’t think that Glasgow would get the licence if they stick with just one. The market could stand as many as two per region but the evidence indicates that this would have a detrimental effect on the existing industry and places such as betting shops and bingo halls.

„If the introduction of casinos is accompanied, as it will be in the UK, by a substantial public awareness campaign to educate the public about the dangers of gambling and how to avoid them, then you find that problem gambling numbers remain the same or even decrease.“

Glasgow recently joined Blackpool, Brent, Cardiff, Greenwich, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield on the shortlist to host the UK‘s first Las Vegas-style regional or resort-style casino.

Recommendations by the casino advisory panel will now be made to Tessa Jowell, Culture Secretary, while the successful bid is expected to be announced next year.

Potential sites for the Glasgow casino include the £1bn Glasgow Harbour development, Rangers FC‘s Ibrox stadium, and the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre.

The Gambling Act recently passed by parliament will allow three new types of casinos to operate in Britain. One massive regional casino will be permitted, along with eight large and eight small casinos.

Geoffrey Godbold is chief executive of GamCare, a registered charity which provides information, advice and practical help in addressing the social impact of gambling.

Speaking at the conference, he said: „A regional casino is not bad per se, it just requires sensible planning.“

Steven Purcell, leader of Glasgow City Council, said the authority would require casino operators to implement a Glasgow-specific response to help those with addiction issues.

This would include education materials and on-site support for people with gambling problems.

In Glasgow, there are several proposals for a supercasino including South Africa’s Kerzner International’s plans for a GBP 162m casino and hotel complex near the SECC.

Las Vegas-based MGM Mirage has plans to open a £100m casino on a 5,000,000 sq ft site at Glasgow Harbour.

Las Vegas Sands also wants to build a GBP 200m casino next to Ibrox as part of a deal backed by Rangers FC.