Churches and community groups have been encouraged to 'keep on speaking out' about possible new casinos in their localities - because of the harm promoting gambling does among vulnerable groups.
The call from Baptist, Methodist, Salvation Army and Evangelical Alliance sources comes after an advisory panel to the Labour government last week announced a short-list of possible sites, reports the Baptist Times and other church papers in the UK.
The minister involved in the proposal, Tessa Jowell, is herself a practicing Anglican and argues that she is giving people choice not encouraging them to become addicted. She says the government is acting with care and consideration. Others suggest it is caving in to big business interests.
The Casino Advisory Panel (CAS) announced on 31 May 2006 that there are eight possible sites for Britainís first Las Vegas-style regional ësuper-casinoí under consideration. But only one will be built under present conditions.
Others who oppose the siting of casinos, or have strong questions about the governmentís seeming promotion of gambling, hope that is does not become seen as ëa religious issueí, however.
A local residents' group leader in one of the areas likely to be effected, who did not wish to be named, told Ekklesia that it was a cross-community concern.
ìI donít mind the faith groups having their say, but if they are not careful they will simply enable the gambling industry to claim that itís just a bunch of spoil-sorts who want to stop them. Iíve seen the impact of gambling first-hand in my family, and I know how serious it can be,î she added.
The new casino will run forms of gambling not previously seen in the UK, such as games with £1 million jackpots. CAS has also placed 31 applicants on the shortlist for small and large casinos.
Wembley Stadium and the Millennium Dome in London are on the shortlist for the regional casino, as are Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle, Sheffield and Blackpool.
The CAS is now open to representations from church and residentsí groups, as well as councils that failed to make the shortlist, until 28 June 2006.
The Evangelical Alliance (EA) encouraged churches to ëplay their full role in the consultation processí.
ëThis is an opportunity for churches and those who work with problem gamblers to ensure that if their local authority is short-listed they ensure that they are included on the list of those who have to be consulted by casino developers,í said Gareth Wallace, EA parliamentary officer.
Captain Dean Pallant of the Salvation Army (SA), which together with the Methodist Church ran a campaign partly responsible for forcing the government to water down some of its Gambling plans, joined in the call on churches.
He also urged the government to monitor tightly the effects on the surrounding communities of the proposed new casinos, claiming that evidence from around the world showed that casinos bring in social problems.
[Also on Ekklesia: Churches in government casino row; Report states gambling bill will increase problems say Methodists; Church leaders criticise 'contradiction' in Gambling Bill; Methodist streak in Cabinet derails plans for gambling; Churches say government may fail vulnerable over gambling]