Manchester’s champion switched sides in supercasino bidding war

The man who spearheaded Manchester’s successful bid for Britain’s first supercasino had previously lobbied for the awarding of the licence to its rival, Blackpool.

Paul Bellringer, an expert on gambling addiction, is seen as instrumental in securing Manchester’s controversial victory in January. As a director of the consultancy firm Responsible Gambling Solutions, hired by Manchester City Council to assist with its bid, he helped lobby ministers and even presented the city’s case to a public inquiry session organised by the Government’s Casino Advisory Panel (CAP).

Six years ago, however, Mr Bellringer said that Blackpool was the „ideal“ location for a supercasino.

Mr Bellringer, then the director of GamCare, a charity that examines gambling addiction and its effects, was involved in the drafting of the Government’s 2001 gambling legislation.

In a promotional video for Blackpool’s bid, he said: „[GamCare] support the notion that because a casino is breaking the mould of the way we have done it in this country before, it should be tried out in one area only, and Blackpool, with its unique-make up, seems to be the ideal place for this to happen.“

The video, for which Mr Bellringer received no payment and which was made on the eve of the Government’s relaxation of the gambling laws, was sent to MPs around the country.

In stark contrast, however, Mr Bellringer, by then working for the rival bid team, told the CAP last year that Manchester „will become an ideal test bed for the regional casino“.

He added: „In my opinion, Manchester’s approach increases the chances of achieving an appropriate balance between commercial opportunity and social responsibility.“

Gordon Marsden, the Labour MP for Blackpool South, said he found it strange that Mr Bellringer had switched allegiance.

„It’s rather curious that someone who was so enthusiastic in supporting Blackpool’s bid should now be so prominent in the context of Manchester’s,“ he said. „His previous position with GamCare was focused on preventing addiction and helping problem gamblers, so I’m surprised he felt comfortable working with a bid that wants to place a casino in one of Manchester’s most deprived areas and which many independent people say is inappropriate for combating problem gambling.“

Mr Bellringer was unavailable for comment yesterday.