UK Casino Plans in Disarray after Lords Vote Against
The planned expansion of casinos in the UK, including a "Las Vegas style super-casino" in Manchester, was put on hold after the House of Lords voted against the proposal, despite the House of Commons (where the elected Members of Parliament sit) voting for it by a narrow majority.
The political fallout will not be pretty for Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell who has been leading the fight to liberate the casino and gambling industry in the UK. There is severe pressure from national newspaper editorials, the Church and opposition politicians and sufficient disquiet and pressure amongst the Lords and Ladies of the Upper Chamber to result in a voting down of the proposals. Without both the House of Commons and House of Lords' approval, the proposals as they stand will not go ahead as planned for now.
The Lords' vote was cast after an impassioned speech during the debates by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. His arguments and those of many others in the Upper Chamber, which is considered to be far more independent of party political persuasion than the House of Commons, was enough to result in a 123 to 120 vote against the casino proposals. This has potentially ended the prospect, as the plans stood, for an enormous casino in Manchester, eight smaller but still sizeable casinos and eight provincial casinos around the more deprived areas of Britain. Opinion has been polarised on whether siting casinos in such areas is a good thing or a bad thing for social harmony.
The popular UK newspaper the Daily Mail, an arch-critic of the "casino revolution" that has supported the extreme US anti-gambling stance too, quotes a "senior source" in Government as saying:
"Proper policy making means we will be spending the next month or so considering the project. It must not be forgotten that this was passed in the Commons by a substantial majority and that some 68 local authorities applied for the 17 licences that were offered. That shows that casinos are actually in demand."
Nonetheless, the scheme is effectively on hold for a few months. It is probable that no new announcements about the scheme or an amendment to it (which would be subject to another vote) will be made until after the local Council elections take place in May.
There is also the question of the Government's own political will. The Chancellor of the Exchequer (the UK's Finance Minister), Gordon Brown, has already signalled a lukewarm desire to promote gambling after he proposed a considerable increase in casino taxes in his recent Budget speech. In addition, the 15% rate of tax proposed for the "Remote Gambling" industry was nowhere near enough to encourage online gaming businesses to relocate to the UK. He stated that casinos would have to make their contributions to society if they are making substantial profits and applied a top rate of 50% on profits over £10,000,000 - a move probably aimed fairly and squarely at the proposed super casino. With the casino plans now in shreds, will the tax proposal be reversed?
Quite what the USA's Harrah's Entertainment and Malaysia's Genting Group will make of all this is a point of interest. They are the two major overseas gambling companies that have bought out London Clubs International and Stanley Leisure, two of the UK's largest existing casino chains. They are likely to be using phrases like "Empty Promises" at this very moment!
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