Methodist streak in Cabinet derails plans for gambling liberalisation
A ìMethodist streakî in the cabinet ó understood to have been led by Tessa Jowell, the culture secretary ó has prevailed over moves to liberalise gambling laws, according to a Government source.
The Sunday Times reports that cabinet ministers have succeeded in derailing much of the planned wholesale liberalisation of Britainís gaming laws led by the minister who is also a member of the Christian Socialist Movement.
It will mean there will be little chance of casinos being built in high streets across the country, although measures such as a relaxation of rules governing drinking of alcohol at gaming tables is likely to be introduced.
In January representatives from Christian groups, including the Methodist church, appeared before the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Draft Gambling Bill to highlight concerns about the potential harm that could be caused by Government proposals.
Helena Chambers, Director of Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs (QAAD), Jennifer Hogg, for the Evangelical Alliance and a representative of Guildford Churches, Rachel Lampard, Secretary for Parliamentary and Political Affairs for The Methodist Church and Jonathan Lomax, Public Affairs Officer of The Salvation Army, gave oral evidence to the committee which is made up of a cross-party group of MPs and Lords.
"The development of gambling on the internet and via interactive TV shows that the gambling laws are clearly in need of modernisation," said Rachel Lampard from the Methodist Church. "However the Government faces the challenge of deregulating without increasing the negative consequences of gambling. In our evidence we were very clear that any changes should be introduced cautiously, especially with the high risk forms of gambling. The gambling industry has to be able to demonstrate that they operate in a socially responsible way before being given licences."
Some cabinet members have also argued against making it easier for people to gamble, pointing to examples of how problem gambling has grown in countries such as Australia where laws were relaxed.
The Treasury has calculated that the £500m a year extra in revenue it would have received from new gaming taxes is not enough to warrant sweeping relaxation of gambling rules. Backbenchers are also angry at the prospect of ìa casino in every high streetî.
One source told the Sunday Times: ìThere is a Labour gambling third way developing and it is not what we were told it was going to be. Certain aspects will be allowed, like the drinking of alcohol at tables in casinos...but it will not be the revolution the British punter was promised three years ago.
ìThe Methodist streak in the cabinet has won and there were simply too few other MPs willing to argue the case.î