Casinos and regeneration: The story so far

Abstract

On 30 January 2007 the Independent Casino Advisory Panel announced that the city of Manchester would host the UK's first supercasino. The city came from behind to beat the frontrunners, Blackpool and Greenwich. This note deconstructs the decision, before critically assessing the relationship between casinos and regeneration more generally. It focuses on the regeneration issues around supercasino development. It concludes with some lessons for Manchester. Key points: • The 2005 Gambling Act modernises the UK's gambling laws. It provides new regulations for internet gambling, and allows for a new generation of big casinos across the UK: for one supercasino, eight large, and eight small casinos. • Cities and central government are interested in the potential for 'casino-led urban regeneration'. This was a major factor in all of the supercasino bids. • The evidence on casino-led urban regeneration is relatively thin. It is a new and relatively untested approach for the UK. The Manchester supercasino is effectively a pilot. • Overall, big casinos appear to be a mixed blessing. Cities must guard against overpromising on what can be delivered, and be prepared for the potential downsides. • Upsides include the potential for casinos to create jobs and to boost tourism and existing leisure sectors. There may also be image benefits for the city, and multiplier effects on the wider local economy. • Downsides include increased problem gambling, mixed employment effects, displacement of existing businesses and spending, and damage to a city's image. • There remains a real risk that the potential downsides might outweigh the upsides of the new supercasino. • Manchester must be realistic about the potential costs and benefits of the supercasino, and quickly begin a clear forward strategy outlining how it will link local people to the new jobs, provide advice to local businesses, and take steps to limit gambling addiction. It should also push ahead with plans to take a cut of casino revenues – which can be recycled into the local economy.

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