Culture secretary Tessa Jowell has conceded that the number of casinos built in the UK could be capped, after fears that a rise in problem gambling would outweigh the regeneration benefits of developments
The Gambling Bill, which passed its second reading this week, would allow projects to include Las Vegas-style casinos. Ministers hope that this will aid the regeneration of deprived areas. But expressions of discontent from backbenchers in the Commons and in the House of Lords have led Jowell to concede that the number of schemes may be capped at 40.
In a series of interviews over the weekend, Jowell said she would listen to demands to scale back developments. She said: “If what MPs want to see is a more gradual approach then of course we will consider that. It is in nobody’s interest that super-casinos sprout across the country.”
Officials have warned that competition rules would make it difficult to write a legal cap into the bill but the Lords has indicated that it will block the legislation unless the number of super-casinos is limited to about 40.
One option is to impose a temporary limit on developments, to be lifted once the effects of the casinos on urban regeneration and gambling addiction were known.
Shadow culture secretary John Whittingdale dismissed Jowell’s attempts to win support for the bill, saying her concessions were “too little, too late”. He said that the minister had not paid enough attention to proposals made by a parliamentary committee, which would have increased the minimum size of super-casinos to ensure that only a small number could be built.
Hotel and betting group Hilton is in talks with Blackpool council over plans to build a £200m casino on a brownfield site in the area. However, the company has yet to secure a property developer for the scheme.