The Church of England has set up a new group to help Blackpool’s regeneration, following the failure of the resort to obtain Britain’s first ‘super-casino’.
Manchester, a 16-1 outsider at the bookmakers, was in the end selected as a test-bed for the UK's first regional "resort" casino. However the Bishop of Blackburn caused controversy when he said that Blackpool should have been chosen to host the new Las Vegas style gambling centre.
The new group from Blackpool was announced to senior Anglican representatives in a briefing by the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Nicholas Reade.
“I hope we as a Church can make some contribution to the Blackpool Community Plan,” the Bishop said. The Archdeacon of Blackburn, the Venerable John Hawley, would lead a group to work with the Blackpool Faiths Forum, looking at the town’s Master Plan, he said.
“They will certainly be saying to Blackpool: ‘We are here if you need us, but with the (national) Faithful Cities Agenda in our hand, I hope we might be able to offer more positive help.”
The Bishop said he was well aware “that my conditional support for a casino in Blackpool was at variance with some voices in the diocese, and indeed some of my colleagues in the House of Bishops”.
The Blackpool situation was not just about a casino, but about regenerating a town with a range of severe social and economic problems. “While many of us have our reservations about gambling, the hope was that the new super-casino would be a catalyst for larger economic regeneration, including hundreds of new jobs.”
The Bishop, speaking at the Diocesan Synod, said doorstep gambling and internet gambling “do cause me great concern”.
He said doorstep gambling would have been “less likely in Blackpool because it would have been predominantly a destination casino”.
Internet gambling was “something that can be done in private and with no local backup for those who run into trouble”.
The Bishop added: “I rather wish those who have shown concern about casino gambling would show at least equal concern for internet gambling.”
Christian campaigners have however said that far from stimulating the regeneration of the area, a super casino could create a rise in debt, gambling addicts, crime, debt and homelessness.
Recent research from Australia has suggested that relaxing gambling laws has led to an increase in homelessness, problem gambling and other social problems.