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Then we have the issue of expenditure on problem gambling. Given that we spend £270 million on treating alcohol addiction, should not the gambling industry be paying much more than the current
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At least in the Statement, the Minister committed to no further growth in gambling opportunities until we test out what we already have and are likely to have following today's announcement. I very much hope that he will confirm that that is rock-solid government policy. We look forward to the debate on the affirmative resolution.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to the two noble Lords for their comments on the Statement. I must emphasise again in response to the noble Lord, Lord Howard, that this is to be a pilot scheme. He expressed anxiety on that score. We have made it absolutely clear that we have no intention of introducing further legislation that might increase the number of casinosif it is ever mootedin this Parliament because we will take time to evaluate the impact of the casinos on their localities. I emphasise that one key feature that came through from Professor Crow's report, which the House will have the opportunity to deliberate more intensively as time goes on, is that he is concerned about the areas in which casinos are located. The impact of the regional casino should be measurable.
I do not want to go into the relative merits of the claims in great detail at this stage, but one relevant factor that Professor Crow considered with regard to BlackpoolI can see one or two noble Lords itching to rise to advance the cause of Blackpool, which we all recognised had some strengthwas that quite a large transient population would be participating in casino activities, whereas with the city of Manchester the advantage is that it will be much more locally oriented and therefore give us a chance to examine fully in the pilot scheme the impact of the casino on the locality.
The noble Lord, Lord Howard, was somewhat unfair in his reference to Kerzner and its association with the Manchester bid. Associated with a number of the major bids were some big gaming interests and organisations. That is how those bids could be rendered credible. But that was about constructing the nature of the bid. Manchester and the other authorities now have to engage in a full competitive process and the large companies that have been associated with particular bids have neither an advantage nor a disadvantage. They start in a fully competitive position as far as the local authority is concerned. I understand the anxieties expressed, but decisions on applications are made by the local authority. The panel made absolutely clear that they needed local backing, and the strength of local consultation was that it helped to establish that fact.
The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, says that the announcement has shocked. I am sorry if he is shocked by the outcome. If by that he means that he had already made up his mind where the casino was going, that merely reflects a prejudgmentdare I say,
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The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, also said that we did not know the final number of casinos. Of course we do not because, believe it or not, the Government do not dictate the final number. We provided in legislation for the one plus eight plus eight formula for this group of casinos, but there are local decisions under the 1968 Gaming Act on which local authorities are deliberating. That is the right of local authorities. Several of them have given permission for casinos to be developed in a much more limited way than the ones described in the Act, which is the issue that we are considering today. Of course we cannot say how many local authorities will agree that a casino is of value to their neighbourhood. That is for them to judge, and it is not fair to criticise the Secretary of State.
I hear what the noble Lord says about the gambling industry making its proper contribution to GamCare and to tackling problem gambling. We will scrutinise that most closely. Sufficient resources are being devoted to GamCare and to other bodies that tackle problem gambling. We have reserve powers to insist that a contribution is made, but we expect the gambling industry to show the right level of responsibility.
Lord St John of Fawsley: My Lords, what possible justification can there be for the Government to produce legislation to increase opportunities for gambling at a time when individuals throughout society are plunged into record levels of debt? What moral or social justification is there for that? Can we at least draw some comfort from being spared the ultimate degradation of a casino at the unfortunate, disastrous Dome?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I hear what the noble Lord says, but he has probably not cast his mind back to one significant increase in debt in this country, when the Conservative Government decided that they would turn regular weekly rent payers into mortgage holders with accumulated debt. That was a decision of the Conservative Government at that time. Mortgages are a significant part of household debt, but we also recognise that the British people can manage their debt effectively because they understand the true costs of that debt and the fact that we can sustain low interest rates and low inflation. Consequently, the debt is manageable.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, the Millennium Dome is in my diocese, and I am anxious
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I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I was relieved to hear him give such a clear assurance that the rumour has no foundation and that the lessons to be learnt from the pilot super-casino will be carefully pondered and examined before future super-casinos are planned. We on these Benches will certainly be looking to see that promise fulfilled.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate, although he re-introduces the issue of the Dome, on which I was slightly dismissive in my response to the noble Lord, Lord St John of Fawsley, for which I apologise. The right reverend Prelate will take some joy from the fact that one of the features of the Greenwich application, on which the panel commented, is that there is a great deal of redevelopment in the Greenwich area at the moment, to the great benefit of the locality. The panel sees that position being enhanced. The casino would not have added sufficient value to that development. As he will know, there are several proposals for the development of the Dome within that framework, many of which have exciting aspects. A great many of Londons facilities will be enhanced in preparation for the Olympic Games in 2012, and we anticipate that the Dome will be utilised then.
The right reverend Prelate says that he feels slightly sorry for the city of Manchester, which will be subject to the pilot study. That is not the view of Manchester or its people, who are delighted with the outcome of todays deliberations.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, there will clearly be some enthusiasm for this announcement, no doubt not least from the Chancellor of the Exchequerquite apart from Manchester and the other local authorities, as we have heard from the Minister. No doubt they will have negotiated other benefits for their area in addition to extra jobs. However, as noble Lords have already heard, there is considerable concern among Members on these Benches and people throughout the country. In a YouGov poll, 56 per cent of citizens were worried that this would lead to more addiction and more social problems. Of course we are glad to hear that the Government are committed to monitoring seriously the likely effect of these casinos. With that in mind, however, can the Minister tell us what assessment the Government made, before embarking on this rash of casinos, of the cost of supportingand, one hopes, reformingeach additional addict and their family, including the vulnerable children who will be affected, and the local community, which, as we have heard, is
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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising this issue. This gives me the opportunity to correct a slight slip that I made a moment ago. Local authorities organise the bids for super-casinos in their areas, but the decisions to create casinos under the 1968 Act are taken by local licensing magistrates, not by local authorities, and I apologise for that slip.
The noble Baroness mentioned the Gambling Act 2005. The motivation behind that Act was not to create casinosthe casinos are a by-product of that Actbut the fact that our gambling laws dated from 1968 and were woefully misplaced to deal with modern gambling, not least the development of online gambling, which presents a real challenge for regulating authorities. The development of new forms of gambling meant that we had to address the fact that the 1968 Act was out of date. That was the principle behind the Gambling Act, which was also the background to decisions about the casinos, as the noble Baroness rightly recognised. Concern was expressed throughout our consideration of that Act that the nation should balance the obvious increase in the participation in gambling of our fellow citizens who, with increased disposable income, are both entitled and in many cases expected to use that income for gambling, from which they derive a great deal of innocent and proper pleasure, against the necessity of dealing with problem gambling and addiction, in particular the impact on children. The Gambling Act sets out to reach that balance. It was the result of very considerable deliberations in the other place and this House. We think that we have reached the right balance.
Baroness Golding: My Lords, it is very nice to hear people congratulating Professor Crow and his committee. However, I do not congratulate him on the regional casino: it should not be in Manchester. I spent a very long time on the pre-legislative Select Committee looking at different areas and all the things that I assumed Professor Crow was looking at. Blackpool would be a resort casino; the Dome would be a destination casino; and Manchester would be a city casino. The Select Committee said that the casino should not be in a city. I went to Australia and saw the damage caused by having a casino in a city.
The Minister mentioned regeneration around the Dome. What regeneration has there been in Blackpool? The answer is none. What has there been in Manchester? There has been a lot. Blackpool needed this: it was waiting for it and will need it still. Why do we hand over to an academic committee something that should be decided by this House and the elected Members in another place? Can the Minister answer that?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, as I have indicated, the final decision will rest with the other place and this House. When the order is considered, I have no doubt that very similar speeches to that which
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Lord McNally: My Lords, I assure the Minister that I have never been prouder that I took the title Lord McNally of Blackpool, especially with the towns dignified and resilient response to todays news. The Minister mentioned Professor Crows report. As the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, has just indicated, the report dismisses with almost cavalier economic illiteracy the Blackpool economic case. I sometimes think that if Blackpool was a steel, coal or cotton town, the impact of declining tourism would be greater appreciated.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Golding, also pointed out, the Minister gives a smooth government decision-making process. I wonder what the royal commission set up to look into this matter thinks about this or what the Joint Committee thinks. The wheel has turned many times and it is unfortunate that this one has turned against Blackpool when the strongest arguments were in Blackpools favour.
Two points really worry me. We have suddenly found that this inner-city casino has the merit of being able to test social gamblingquite so. Every study at home and abroad has warned against door-step gamblinggambling on the door step. Professor Crow says that,
He means that people would go to places like Blackpool for two weeks for holiday enjoyment of gambling. At a door-step casino like Manchester, they will stay with the problem and will create the problem. In many ways, it is the most perverse decision that could be made and is against all the warnings of research.
I should like to make one further comment to opponents of casinos. We have all watched James Bond and George Raft films and the problem with casinos is that they are a nice, emotive issue. In fact, while opponents are obsessing about casinos, the real problem gambling will go on tonight on ITV when people can spend 75p a minute on television quizzes from their beds or make bets from their telephones. The most regulated and most easily controlled
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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, perhaps I may reply to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, who deserves a response to his powerful contribution. He has been unwavering in his advocacy of Blackpool as the location and will get the opportunity for further debate on whether this recommendation should come into effect across the country. He will have the chance to make that advocacy. The noble Lord has presented the great strengths of the Blackpool case. There were great strengths among all bidders in the final group which were considered for the super-casino. Earlier, I reflected in the briefest way possible with regard to the report some factors which were considered by the casino panel.
Of course, there will be disagreement with its conclusions. By definition, there would always be more disappointed towns and bidders than successful ones, which is in the nature of this kind of exercise. However, in one respect, the panel was absolutely clear: a crucial aspect of the Manchester bid was that it gave the best possible circumstances for considering problem gambling in the pilot location. That is the basis of its recommendation. We will in the future have the chance to deliberate on those points.
Lord Steinberg: My Lords, I declare an interest. When the Gambling Bill last came before the House, I was the non-executive chairman of Stanley Leisure. Since then, it has been sold as the result of a takeover and I am now life president. Stanley Leisure had 45 casinos, including three in Manchester, so I, living in Manchester, welcome the casino being situated there.
The decision was difficult and, as a result, I hope that there will not be a series of judicial reviews which will halt the process even further. Some of the more hysterical newspaper reports say that the whole thing is a disaster. I put it to the Minister that Great Britain has the lowest rate of problem gambling in the world. I am proud to be a founder member of GamCare, an organisation that helps to look after problem gamblers. To my knowledge, casinos here keep a tighter control on problem gambling than those in other countries. I commend that and long may it continue. I hope that the comments about crime, prostitution and money laundering are all basically figments of journalistic licence. We have never had a case of problem gambling. We have never had a case involving crime or prostitution. I hope that the Minister will continue that record.
Lord Steinberg: My Lords, I understand what the noble Lord is saying. I have the following questions for the Minister. Will he give an undertaking that the current opening hours for casinos will remain the
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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the one point on which the noble Lord and I agree strongly is that this was a very difficult decision. Everyone recognises that the bids put in had enormous strengths, and of course several noble Lords have sought to identify the strength of certain cases.
We have the best regulated gambling industry in the world. We have the lowest rate of problem gambling, as the noble Lord indicated, and we intend to keep it that way. However, we cannot avoid the fact that there are now many new activities which involve gambling or something very close to it. Even the noble Lord, Lord McNally, referred to that when he commented on the development of quiz games on television, which are now causing concern in terms of the nature of gambling. It is because of that that we needed the Gambling Act 2005. It will stand us in good stead to guarantee that we keep a high level of regulation. I want merely to emphasise that within that level of regulation, the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Steinbergthere are far too many for me to respond to at the end of our debate on a Statementare covered.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 41 while still feeling somewhat shell shocked by the events of the past two minutes. I thought that my noble friend Lady Miller would move this amendment, but its substance is quite clear:
It is very much on a par with the arguments I made on a previous amendment. The thrust of many of our amendments has been to seek to delay the implementation of certain clauses of the Bill. That is the purpose of this amendment and no doubt my noble friend Lady Miller will put the case more articulately than me. I beg to move.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Razzall, and I certainly could not improve on his ability to introduce the amendment. I should apologise to the House because
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