In a statement that will prove extremely controversial, a senior Church of England Bishop has said that Blackpool should have been chosen to host Britain's first Las Vegas-style super-casino.
The Bishop of Blackburn's comments came after the announcement that Manchester had won the licence - beating Blackpool and London's former Millennium Dome, which were the bookmakers' favourites.
The licence will allow Manchester to build a venue for up to 1,250 unlimited-jackpot gaming machines.
The Rt Rev Nicholas Reade called yesterday (Tuesday) for new regional and national government aid packages to revive Blackpool, following the 'huge disappointment' of its failure to gain a super-casino.
"It's very clear that Blackpool is already struggling in terms of employment and health," said the Bishop, whose diocese includes the Lancashire resort.
"I hope very much that the regional development agency and central government will be very supportive of Blackpool as the town inevitably looks at other ways of regenerating itself.
"It seems rather puzzling why a place like Manchester - where the need for regeneration is obviously nothing like as great as it is in Blackpool- should have been awarded the casino.
"This decision seems to me to be a great missed opportunity. If Blackpool could reclaim its favourite holiday resort status, people would flock there for their holidays, rather than hurtling themselves across the sea by air, with all the consequent damage to the environment."
Super-casino development promised up to 2,500 jobs, "and it would have gone a long way towards alleviating poverty," the Bishop said. "Our hearts go out to the people of Blackpool."
The Bishop's comments will prove controversial with some Christians who have warned about the damaging effects of a super-casino.
But the Bishop said his support for the super-casino had always been dependent on there being genuine economic benefits for the resort, and appropriate safeguards and care ‚"for those who find rags rather than riches on the casino floor".
He added: "Obviously there are differing views within the Church about this development, but after speaking to council officials and others in Blackpool in recent weeks, I became increasingly satisfied that Blackpool had sufficient safeguards in place.
"Given those safeguards, and the guarantee of genuine ‚Äòtrickle down‚Äô benefits for the local community, I would always be keen to back any further application for a casino if similar proposals arose. My greater concern is not so much the casino proposals as gambling on the Internet."