Warning to casino cities on dangers to poor

Communities should be warned that casinos are not a magic wand for regeneration and wealth creation.

That is the main finding of a government report which has researched gaming in the US, Australia, and South Africa.

It claims that while there are international examples of economic growth this may not translate into „tangible economic benefits to the host area“.

It urges local authorities to engage and consult all sections of the community before putting their casino development proposals forward and warns against using casinos to support services and projects they otherwise could not fund.

It says that to minimise problem gambling, casinos should be located away from areas frequented by children and teenagers.

People with little discretionary income are more vulnerable to becoming „problem and pathological gamblers in society“, it claims, and they require greater protection.

While the report noted that there is no simple theory on communities being affected in terms of an increase in crime and quality of life, it suggests that casinos are „neither as good for a community as supporters contend, nor as negative as opponents argue“.

The report was compiled by Karen Lee from the Cardiff School of City and Regional Planning and was funded by the Casino Advisory Panel, which will next month recommend to Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell which of seven locations should host the UK‘s first Las Vegas-style casino.

Glasgow is one of the front-runners for the prize, along with Blackpool and London.

The report was intended to be used by the panel as background research, but as it is three months late it is on the panel’s website only to provide information for interested parties.

In his introduction to the report, the panel’s chairman, Professor Stephen Crow, says it had „not been relied upon in reaching our conclusions“.

He adds: „Economic impact studies have highly variable assumptions and methodologies that make comparison difficult.“

Reports from London and Blackpool both appeared to suggest the research pointed to the Millennium Dome winning the right to host the supercasino, as it was not near areas frequented by young people and had other major attractions nearby.

Sources in Glasgow insist that, being the only one of the competing areas to have four options for the supercasino, it had more scope to address some of the concerns raised.

They also believe that with Glasgow having reinvented itself as a short-break destination and a key retail centre, as well as being a gateway to the Highlands, it too offers „a diversified tourism product“ that the report claims is crucial to regeneration.

The appeal to local authorities to consult widely is also expected to anger campaigners against Glasgow’s bid. When the panel met in the city in early September the sole public objector, church elder Ken Rolwegan, made an issue of the lack of discussion with the public on the plans.

Mr Rolwegan was unavailable for comment last night but in a recent letter to The Herald he wrote: „The city council was found by its own admission to have done a minimal consultation exercise.

„In March, it surveyed 1000 people to find out if they would support a casino bid. I would call that a sample, not a consultation. Perhaps they were frightened they would get a resounding ’no‘ to a fuller consultation.“

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said if they were successful they would instruct an independent survey of the four sites already identified and carry out a full public consultation.