Gordon Brown has signalled the beginning of the end for the proposed super casino plans. In a clear break from his predecessor, the incoming Prime Minister has indicated that plans for Britain’s first super-casino may not go ahead, marking a dramatic U-turn in the government’s attitude towards gambling.
Despite four years of intense lobbying by gaming organisations, he is reconsidering the possibility of regional casinos being built in the UK, and will be undertaking a review of the policy instigated by former Labour leader Tony Blair in September. „This is an issue on which there is no consensus,“ Brown said.
The news is likely to spark fury both in Manchester, the city that won the competition to run Britain’s first regional casino in January, and in Blackpool, which had appealed against the decision but had also hoped to be awarded a similar development in the future.
Brown said that the government would look at other ways the government could deliver the urban regeneration the super casinos were designed to deliver. He told the Commons that there were plenty of other ways to help rundown areas, such as building transport links, hotels and conference centres.
He wants to examine gambling „the incidence and prevalence of it and the social effects of it“ and said that he would publish a report in September on the impact of problem gambling, timed to coincide with the date that the controversial new Gambling Act comes into force.
Brown announced a government gambling review would look beyond the choice of location for the UK’s first super casinos and into its wider merits. The government must look at other ways it can regenerate inner cities, he said. Many Labour MPs only backed Tony Blair’s super casino plans because of the promise it would regenerate deprived areas such as Manchester and Blackpool.
Manchester had won the original race to host a supercasino and Greenwich and Blackpool held out hope that they would also get permission. Brown’s decision also throws into doubt plans for 16 other medium and smaller-sized gaming complexes.
Former culture secretary Tessa Jowell had already run up against huge opposition to the plans before it emerged that the former deputy PM John Prescott had been a guest at the ranch of a US billionaire bidding for a casino at the Dome.
The prime minister told them: “I hope that during these summer months we can look at whether regeneration in the areas for the super-casinos maybe a better way of meeting their economic and social needs than the creation of super casinos.“
Chris Fletcher, policy director of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: „We are amazed and a bit shocked about what Mr Brown has said. „The idea behind the supercasino in east Manchester was that it would lever further private investment money into the area as a catalyst for the regeneration already going on.“
Culture, media and sport spokesman Don Foster said: „There are serious concerns over the level of scrutiny given to the super casino proposals and it was left to the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords to halt the government’s headlong rush to Manchester.
„Any decision to go ahead with the super casino proposals must be preceded by detailed scrutiny in parliament.“
Manchester MP Graham Stringer told the BBC it would be a „weak and bad decision“ if the city did not get its super casino. There was considerable surprise when Manchester was chosen to host the first super casino over the favourite Blackpool. Tony Blair was a strong advocate of super casinos and said both Manchester and Blackpool could build one as soon as the investment was in place.