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Gambling on regeneration
Michael Hammond

It was a dead cert. London was going to have the UK’s first 5,000m² ‘Super Casino’ within Richard Roger’s ill fated Millennium (Sorry O2) Dome at Greenwich. UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott had been entertained by owner Philip Anschutz’s in his Colorado ranch. The nod had been given. Construction work even started on site. However after months of speculation and controversy the Government appointed Casino Advisory Panel made its recommendation on Tuesday of this week. It was the UK’s third largest city, Manchester which actually won the bid against fierce competition from the firm favorite (London) and strong


contender Blackpool.
The backlash was instant with both London and Blackpool threatening legal action. London was genuinely shocked but many commentators suggest that John Prescott’s behavior had compromised its position and made the capital venue untenable. A London win would have prompted too many accusations of sleaze.
The UK’s Gaming Act of 2005 is as far reaching as it is dubious. In effect, a promotion of gambling, it is strikingly at odds with the ‘cleaning-up’ message signaled by the smoking ban due to be imposed this summer. The UK’s economy has in recent years been funded in part by a huge rise in consumer debt, both from credit cards and secured loans and has now reached a staggering £1 ¼ trillion (£1,250 billion). Fuelled by low interest rates (now rising) and easy credit, growth has now clearly peaked. With this background it is easier to understand why the UK Government has embarked on this spurious course of action. PR gurus have spun a web of regeneration benefits but a series of documentaries on UK TV suggest a much darker picture based on securing a replacement revenue stream to prop up the UK’s debt ridden economy. A revenue supplied by the people who can often least afford it.
To allay fears of an increase in the level of gambling addiction, the Government has been justifying


its plans with an ‘independent’ study by Dr. Mark Griffiths, a Chartered Psychologist and Professor of Gambling Studies at the Nottingham Trent University.playing down the effects. A quick visit to the website of his International Gaming Research Unit (IGRU) by WAN investigators however reveals an interesting sponsor. Camelot – the UK’s lottery operator, no less.
The effect of all this is far reaching and it won’t just be the Manchester population at risk, the Gaming Act will release a string of smaller regional casinos in Bath and North East Somerset, Dumfries and Galloway, East Lindsey, Luton, Scarborough, Swansea, Torbay and Wolverhampton. Whether the local communities will benefit from the arrival of casinos only time will tell but the omens point towards a quick win for the government.



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