Cities enter final battle to host super-casino

Blackpool, Cardiff, Glasgow and Greenwich are all possible contenders for Britain’s first ‘super-casino’, it was announced today.

The shortlist unveiled by the casino advisory panel also includes Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Brent as sites for the regional casino, which will be able to have 1,250 gambling machines with an unlimited jackpot.

The Gambling Act 2005 also allows the establishment of eight large and eight small casinos across the country, and the shortlists for these have also been announced today.

However, the news is likely to reignite the fierce debate about whether such casinos are right for Britain at all, particularly after the culture secretary’s admission this morning that there had been an “explosion” in gambling in recent years.

But she told Today: “We had to modernise and update our gambling laws, and we have done that. We will have the most protective legislation in the world.

“Everything that any operator or the gambling commission does will be in the context of three requirements – one is to ensure that funding is fair, the second is to ensure that children and the vulnerable are protected and the third that gambling is kept crime-free.”

Her admission came after figures from charity Gamcare show the number of people applying to it for counseling rose 41.3 per cent last year, many of them women.

Responding, shadow culture secretary Hugo Swire called for reassurances that the new casinos would be properly assessed for their social impact.

He added: “Given that the government has been using two different and out of date figures for the number of problem gamblers, we urgently need to know the true picture of gambling addiction in this country.”

In their deliberations, members of the casino advisory panel had to take into account the social impact the casinos would have on local people, as well as the potential they would have to regenerate the area.

Chairman Stephen Crow said: “I know that our decisions will cause disappointment to some, not least to authorities who had looked to their casino proposal as a means of alleviating severe problems of deprivation or even improving social conditions and meeting the need for economic regeneration.

“But the competition Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has been very strong, and so it is inevitable that some proposals, good enough though they may be in themselves, have to yield before more powerfully justified cases.”

Leader of Birmingham city council Mike Whitby said he was “obviously bitterly disappointed” that the city had not made it to the regional casino short list, adding: “We feel that the Midlands as a whole has been abandoned.

“This decision has rejected a bid which had clear benefits to the region, touching many millions of people. An NEC casino would have massively benefited the region and been an asset to the nation.”

But there were celebrations elsewhere, and Steven Broomhead, chief executive of the north-west regional development agency, said he was “delighted” that Blackpool had made the final running for the ‘super-casino’.

“A regional casino would create enormous economic, tourism and regeneration benefits for Blackpool,” he said, adding: “Blackpool’s submission puts forward a very strong case and so to be included in the short list of locations is a great step forward.”

Cardiff Central MP Jenny Willott also welcomed the announcement, saying a regional casino would “bring millions to Cardiff’s economy, increase tourism and, most importantly, create several thousands jobs in the city”.