Churches in government casino row
Lord McIntosh, the governmentís House of Lords spokesperson for proposed new laws to regulate and liberalise gambling in the UK, has rounded on critics of the legislation ñ including churches.
Responding to the Salvation Army and other voluntary bodies who cite evidence that the removal of restrictions on casinos will lead to a significant increase in gambling addiction, Lord McIntosh declared, ëI know more than they doí.
The proposed Bill will extend the powers of the Gambling Commission, take away slot machines from unlicensed premises and regulate online gambling ñ although most of the sites are overseas.
But the controversy surrounds the removal of restrictions on the number and size of casinos, with the government accused of caving in to gaming industry lobbying. Large companies aim to have a casino in almost every town or city.
Money spent on gambling in Britain has risen from bn to £40bn over the past three years. According to a YouGov survey, casino gambling could increase more than four-fold through liberalisation.
A recent NOP poll also shows that 93% of the public do not want new gambling outlets.
There is a further argument over alleged inducements to local authorities to grant licenses. Asked on BBC Radio if these amounted to pay-offs, Lord McIntosh replied, ëYes, indeed, and why not?í, according to the London Evening Standard.
Churches and voluntary groups say that further liberalisation will adversely impact the vulnerable while lining the pockets of speculators.
Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, who is enthusiastically promoting the bill, is herself a churchgoer.