In a surprise result, Manchester has been chosen as the location of the UK’s first Super-Casino. The Manchester bid was a serious underdog, with the licence expected to go to either Blackpool or the Millennium Eleph … er … Dome. The bid will lead to investment and regeneration in a poor area of the city, and create up to 2,700 new jobs.
Super-Casinos have strong critics. Problem gambling causes misery for around 300,000 people in Britain, and opponents say that if we improve access to casinos, and if we permit Las Vegas-style gambling complexes, we’ll put thousands more at risk.
Those who support the scheme disagree, saying that it’s wrong to ban something just to save a minority from themselves. There’s a problem with obsessive shoppers, but we don’t ban shops – we have trading standards and consumer protection, and we provide support to shopaholics. A similar model for gambling would help to prevent problem gambling, whilst allowing everyone else to have a fun night out.
I don’t know the answer to this debate, but I do know that right now, Britain is sending out all the wrong signals about financial prudence. People max out credit cards each December, whilst the Farepak victims, who’d saved up a little each month, lost out badly. Interest rates are at a record high, but banks won’t pass it on to their customers. And similarly, sensible gamblers, who go in with a £20 and leave when they’ve lost it all, risk being penalised for the sake of a minority who refuse to be responsible with their money. It’s impossible to tackle the problem of personal debt if people have the impression that savers get screwed over.
So would I go to the new Manchester Super-Casino when it opens? No. Not that I disapprove, but my vice is Texas Hold’Em poker, and it’s just not worth playing it at a casino, because the House helps itself to a percentage of every pot. If you want to play Hold’Em, get a group of friends together, invest in some casino-grade cards and a nice set of clay chips, and get started! It’s extremely good fun.
I may not win Lib Dem Blog of the Year, but I bet you I would be Lib Dem Poker Player of the Year, if there were such a thing. Anyone fancy a tournament at the next Federal Conference? We can settle this once and for all …