Regional casinos and problem gambling

Abstract

This short report provides NERA's comments on the Government's response to the First Report of the Joint Scrutiny Committee (JSC) on the Draft Gambling Bill. It is NERA's view that: • The latest Government proposals would appear to impose stricter regulations on casinos than had previously been envisaged. However, we question whether the Government's objective of preventing increases in problem gambling will be achieved, despite the socially responsible approach. • While the tighter restrictions on small and large casinos will reduce their proliferation by making them less attractive business propositions than in other previous proposals, we do have concerns about the proposed regulations for regional casinos. • Comparing the definition of regional casinos given in the Government's response, with that of large casinos in the First Report of the JSC, suggests that the two categorisations are not substantially different. While the minimum size requirements do appear to be more onerous for regional casinos than for the large casinos, it is far from clear that this is sufficient on its own to reduce the proliferation of regional casinos significantly below that envisaged previously for large casinos. • Without the necessary changes to primary legislation, or strict planning controls, the risk is that the number of regional casinos, and therefore the ensuing problem gambling, could approach the levels previously expected for large casinos. • Under a scenario of 60 regional casinos, offering around 75,000 Category A gaming machines, we estimate that there could be up to 500,000 casino-related problem gamblers in 2010, approximately 400,000 more than at present. • Given this potential for problem gambling, the Government needs to provide clear and consistent guidance, at the regional level, over the criteria for allowing regional casinos to operate. The guidance needs to reflect concerns about problem gambling so that local authorities are clear about the issues that they face in reaching their decisions. • Failure to control the development of the regional casinos effectively will not only lead to significant levels of problem gambling, but will also jeopardise the ability of local authorities to deliver the regeneration impacts that are believed to be an important benefit of these casinos.

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