Jowell backs Manchester for first super casino

MPs asked to back Manchester
MPs asked to back Manchester

The UK's first regional 'super' casino should open in Manchester, culture secretary Tessa Jowell said today.

The government is calling on MPs to accept the recommendations of the independent Casino Advisory Panel, after announcing that it backs the choice of Manchester for the first regional casino and the locations of 17 other smaller casinos.

Ms Jowell's support for Manchester will come as a blow to the 100 plus MPs who signed a Commons motion backing Blackpool. Joan Humble, MP for Blackpool north, argued that the coastal city was more deserving of the casino and received backing from John Prescott.

The advisory panel's decision to recommend the first super casino open in Manchester surprised MPs and local campaigners, with Blackpool and the Millennium Dome in Greenwich seen as the stronger cases.

However, the panel pointed to deprivation in the city's eastside and recommended Manchester.

The panel also recommended large casinos in Great Yarmouth, Kingston-upon-Hull, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Newham, Solihull and Southampton, and small casinos in Bath, north-east Somerset, Dumfries and Galloway, east Lindsey, Luton, Scarborough, Swansea, Torbay and Wolverhampton.

Ms Jowell will begin seeking parliamentary approval for the recommendations today by formally laying out a single draft order.

Both Houses will debate the order, but will only be able to approve or deny its recommendations in whole and not make amendments.

Reflecting the level of debate expected, the secretary of state announced the Commons will debate the order for three hours, double the normal length of an affirmative order debate.

Ms Jowell said: "Given the exceptional level of interest in the issues, and the importance of parliament being able to properly consider the matter, the debate in the Commons will be an extended one and will take place on the floor of the House itself.

"Many people in this country like to gamble, and it is right that they are properly protected. This is not Las Vegas coming to Britain. The Gambling Act brings in tough new controls on gambling, and puts an obligation for social responsibility at the heart of the operation of the new casinos.

"The key reason to limit the number of new casinos is to measure carefully their social impact as well as their regeneration potential."

The Liberal Democrats have already signalled their intent to vote against the proposals unless there is further parliament scrutiny, with culture spokesman Don Foster calling for a joint committee from both houses.

He argued: "Given the recent increase in online gambling, as well as the current burgeoning numbers of casino licence applications, the face of British gambling has changed significantly since the Gambling Bill was passed.

"The Liberal Democrats also have concerns over the remit of the Casino Advisory Panel - we question whether there has been sufficient attention given to regeneration in the decision-making process and argue that it would be wise to check that the remit was adequately followed by the panel."


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