Just as England's World Cup hopes appear to rest on Wayne Rooney's ability to cure his new-found gambling addiction, so the regeneration prospects of a host of towns and cities have suddenly become reliant on their ability to win the race to host the country's first super-casino.

There has been an all too predictable rush from local authorities to latch on to the next best thing, in this case yet another government-sponsored project which is being seen as a cure-all for their economic problems.

The sight of town halls busily putting together casino prospectuses, vying with each other in a beauty parade to attract the attention of the Casino Advisory Panel, another government quango, does little to encourage the belief that the UK really gets regeneration.

Such knee-jerk, "must-have" thinking rises from the regions and cities of the UK with depressing regularity. We had it with the European City of Culture competition and the promised relocation of civil servants from London.

Local authorities set out to win these prizes with all the crazed optimism of the addicted gambler. Vast amounts of time and energy are expended on these exercises, the slim probability of victory doing little to dampen the enthusiasm of councillors, who think the public are really into these projects and who need to invent a reason for their existence in the run-up to elections.

Should we admire the pluck or pity the delusion that led to super-casino bids from the likes of Brent, Chesterfield, Coventry, Dartford, Dudley, Great Yarmouth, Ipswich, Middlesbrough, Newport, Solihull, Sunderland, Wakefield and West Dunbartonshire?

Encouraged by a patrician Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which has told the quango to take into account the unemployment and social deprivation of areas in need of regeneration "and which are likely to benefit in these terms from a new casino", these areas have been persuaded to make a virtue of their poverty, their remoteness and their limited prospects.

Of course, the DCMS will tell you a different story if you ask them in private: that ministers have all along wanted a clutch of super-casinos, but had to give in to those reactionary Tories and agree to just one super-casino in order to ensure passage of the Gambling Bill last year.

So if one reads the leaves in the House of Commons tea room, it would appear that by stealth and skulduggery, ministers are really planning up to eight super-casinos, as well as the eight large and small casinos already in the works.

Should we admire the pluck or pity the delusion that led to super-casino bids from the likes of Brent, Dudley, Ipswich, Solihull and West Dunbartonshire?

And so maybe all this preparatory work won't be such a waste of time after all and one day punters will be able to stake all their worldly goods on red at the West Dunbartonshire casino before driving their car off the jetty into Loch Lomond.

And in private the DCMS will tell local authorities that even if they don't win, the bidding exercise will have at least instilled momentum in their towns and cities to "think big", to believe like the London 2012 team in that most unBritish belief - that one's dreams can become reality.

The DCMS is at least entitled to rubbish the puritans and naysayers who want us to oppose casinos on our doorstep because of what they call the social evils of gambling and their potentially adverse impact on communities.

Gambling is a leisure activity we have lived with for decades and we will live with for decades more, unfazed by the odds against us. The odds of winning at roulette or blackjack or even on the slot machines will be a darn sight better than winning the National Lottery, now in its 12th year.

Besides, thanks to the internet easy access to gambling is secured irrespective of the number and size of casinos we eventually build. It is in any case somewhat ironic to debate about the social merits of importing the casino culture from a country like the US, which is going to great lengths to halt the march of internet gambling.

What we need is a convincing argument that casinos are catalysts for regeneration, but the case is at best inconclusive. One study from consultants Hall Aitken raises doubts about the quality of jobs created by casinos and believes casinos will suck profits from other businesses in the area. It concluded that estimates of economic benefit were "optimistic and potentially misleading", while a regional casino would undermine government targets on neighbourhood regeneration.

Ministers claim this is scare-mongering, and reminiscent of the dire warnings of a binge-drinking society prior to the extension of licensing hours. But the history of UK regeneration is littered with developments built on a whim and failing because of lack of foresight and planning.

With apologies to the Welsh, Scots and Northern Irish, the best prospect of regeneration in the UK rests on Rooney driving England to World Cup glory this summer. Sports, particularly those like football which have tradition and popularity, represent a far firmer basis for planning regeneration than the false promises of casinos.